Paul Kellerman reads the umpteenth résumé handed to him by one of his aides. These guys are all starting to look the same: ex-this and ex-that; Navy SEALs, Army Rangers, Power Rangers. They all look like they'd stand out like a sore thumb at the Annual Republican Congressional Fundraising Dinner. A couple of weeks ago, bodyguards wouldn't even have been a consideration of his, but that was before the shooting. Before an assassin's bullet came within an inch of severing his jugular.
"Bill, I'm not afraid of the person or people who tried to kill me. I won't be intimidated. And I won't walk around like POTUS with an entourage of highly visible bodyguards. Especially not on tax dollars. These people pay for me to make sure their ass is covered in Washington, not the other way around. I want something low-key, two or three people – four at the most. And I want someone who doesn't look like they're going to tackle the little old lady whose grandkid spits up on me at a parade."
As always, his right hand and best friend from the Academy, Danny Hale, comes up with a solution that would look rather elegant in an evening dress. "She doesn't have any experience in executive protection, but she was in the Army for seven years. Her father was a West Pointer. Taught there, too."
Kellerman stares at the name in recognition. "Tancredi? As in Colonel ‘The Tank' Tancredi? From constitutional law?"
Hale grins at their shared memory of the no-nonsense, take-no-shit Frank Tancredi who used to fire away questions like it was the Battle of Kiev all over again. "She's his daughter."
And Kellerman almost can't imagine The Tank having offspring. He can't even see the familial resemblance. She's tall and slender and he is – or was – short and stocky, compact – built sort of like a tank.
~ * ~ * ~
When Bill Kim sees the file he flusters momentarily, before making a smooth recovery. "She's a woman," he remarks, condescendingly.
"I'm aware of that. What's your point? You think she can't do the job? Look at employment record."
"Very impressive," says Kim, with equally impressive patience, after studying the dossier, "but her only employer, so far, has been the U.S. Army. There's no history of bodyguard work. She's just a grunt, Paul."
"She was an officer, Bill, and a soldier. We were all military men, I think we can appreciate that. She served her country for seven years. We did, what? Four, five at the most? Besides, if I don't hire her, I'm going to look like a sexist ass who thinks women can't be bodyguards."
"It might make you look weak, Paul," he suggests. "Who knows? It might even make you look like a misogynist who wants to see women die protecting men."
"I think my constituents know me a little better than that."
"Her being passed over for the job could be on account of any number of things. No one would ever know what the real reason – reasons – were."
But I would. "Look, Bill, run whatever security checks you have to, set up an interview, do whatever you've got to do to make the appointment official. She's hired."
And it's final. But Bill Kim doesn't like this at all.
~ * ~ * ~
A very formal Sara Tancredi, her hair pinned back neatly as if she were due for a court appearance, sits across from him and his slippery smile in the congressman's office. She gets the feeling she's about to be interrogated, but she's not one hundred percent sure until he speaks.
"I did some digging, Miss Tancredi. Sara. And it turns out you do have some experience in personal protection." Kim glances at the portfolio and paperwork resting in his lap. "And I see why you'd want to keep it a secret."
Sara tries not to move, tries not to let her discomfort show, but the conservative pencil skirt she chose for the interview is making her underwear ride up and it's almost as much of a pain in the ass as the man in front of her.
"You know, I can see why you left this kind of thing out of your résumé. I mean, it –" He exhales, theatrically – "really doesn't look good for you." He meets her gaze. "You were employed by the Farahmani family?"
"I signed a confidentiality agreement –"
"Then, yes? You did work for them?" Kim persists, with sugar-coated ruthlessness. "And they had a ten-year-old – her name was Coco, I believe – who died while you were assigned to protect her?"
She looks at him peculiarly. "She died of old age, sir."
"You expect me to believe that a ten-year-old girl died of –"
"Coco Farahmani was a chihuahua, sir. The family pet."
And suddenly it's Kim's turn to feel uncomfortable (and a little ridiculous). "A chihuahua? They assigned you to protect a dog?"
"The Farahmanis are –"
"I know who they are, Miss Tancredi," Kim growls, the muscles twitching in his face. "Their dog? Seriously?"
"She'd been getting death threats. She was old, they were concerned for her." She shrugs very straight shoulders and says – quite seriously, "Reality TV celebrities."
"Something which I am not. Unless C-SPAN plans on giving MTV a run for their money any time soon."
Kim looks up and Sara turns as Kellerman strides into the room. He looks confident, but hurried, like he was rushed from a prior engagement.
"Miss Tancredi. A pleasure to meet you." He shakes her hand as she rises from her seat. "Paul Kellerman. Sorry I'm late." He gives Kim a warning smile. "I hope Bill hasn't been trying to scare you off."
"I don't scare easily, sir."
"Good. That's good. Well, I mean after looking at your service record, I can imagine. Afghanistan?"
"Kandahar, yes," Sara acknowledges, with a tight, almost poignant smile. "With the eight-hundred-and-sixty-fourth, sir."
"The ECB, right. I used to be an Army man myself. Infantry, of course, but –" You're babbling, Kellerman, he tells himself. "Anyway, a few of my staffers are vets." There's something about her, something that makes him stare. And just when his (almost mesmerized) silence is becoming awkward, he shakes himself free of those wide brown eyes. "Well, uh, I just wanted to introduce myself and congratulate you, though I'm not entirely sure if that's appropriate given your job description."
She blinks, her mouth moves. "I have the job?" Already? "No follow-up interview?"
"I don't think that's necessary. You were recommended – actually recommended isn't the right word – your name kind of came up. Um, your father taught one of my law classes at West Point, I believe – if I remember correctly, though I'm sure I do." G-ddamnit, he's babbling again.
If she sounds unhappy about the reference, Kellerman doesn't notice. "And your service record speaks for itself. Bill will formalize everything. I have another aide, Danny Hale; he'll get you set up – show you the house, give you my schedule. Whatever you need, just ask. The rest I guess you know."
"Thank you, sir," she says, sounding a little bit bewildered. Typically, she's getting turned down for jobs.
He smiles his winning Paul Kellerman smile; the one the voters and press love. There's something about Sara Tancredi. He's not sure what it is and – out of sight, out of mind – he manages to shake the nagging feeling. Until he sees her again. And after that it never really goes away. It only gets stronger.
There's something about her. Something he likes.
To be continued...