Election Day
Chapter 10

Copyright© 2021 by Lumpy

Taylor took the stairs three at a time, clearing the first floor in seconds, Whitaker’s footsteps echoing close behind him. He’d just made it to the second floor when he heard a crashing sound coming from Kara’s bedroom.

Taylor exploded through the partially opened door, only to find Kara alone, sitting up in bed, the gun he’d given her in her hands. She’d been pointing the weapon towards the remains of the shattered window when he came in. To her credit, she’d reacted quickly, turning the weapon towards the sound of her door bursting open, thankfully pausing long enough to recognize him.

“He went out the window,” she said in Russian.

Taylor turned and pushed past Whitaker, who was coming into the room behind him, almost knocking her down. Once again he took the stairs multiple steps at a time, hurtling over the body of the fallen agent and circling around to the rear of the house where the broken window to Kara’s room faced.

Taylor wasn’t surprised to find Hubbard, who almost certainly had been the person to throw himself out yet another window, gone. Even reacting quickly, it had taken him some time to get around the building. Hubbard was smart enough to know once gunshots rang out it wouldn’t be long before more armed agents showed up.

Taylor slowly walked the backyard. There wasn’t much in the way of cover behind the house, just a large security fence separating the Senators’ house from her neighbors. While it was more solid and much taller than the fences in most people’s back yard, it wasn’t unscalable, especially for someone who had to go through standard obstacle courses in training.

Taylor pulled himself up onto the wall enough to look around, but there was no sign of Hubbard. Knowing Whitaker, she’d already called it in, probably requesting a surrounding of the neighborhood, although Taylor doubted that would do much good. Hubbard would have already worked out his escape route ahead of time and probably had some kind of transportation staged a block or two away. By the time the Secret Service and locals got a cordon thrown up, he’d be gone.

Heading back towards the house, Taylor began checking the ground outside the window. There wasn’t much in the way of blood, except for some residual amounts on the glass shards. Taylor wasn’t an expert, but he’d bet there wasn’t enough to indicate any kind of gunshot wound. The small amount of blood most likely came from jumping through the window.

Looking up at it, Taylor estimated the fall. Hubbard had been through jump training, which means he’d trained in parachute landing falls. Contrary to popular belief, parachutes only slowed you down so much. Even properly deployed, landings could still be pretty rough. Soldiers were trained to roll with the impact of a hard landing so they could get up and keep fighting. They trained by jumping off platforms not that much lower than the second-story window. Hubbard would have done it dozens of times over his career at the very least.

Taylor stood back up and walked around the broken glass fragments back to the front door. Inside, he found Whitaker sitting on the side of Kara’s bed when he got back upstairs, hugging both their adoptive daughter and Mary Jane, who’d joined them at some point.

“He’s gone,” Taylor said, sitting on the other side of girls. “You did a good job, kiddo.”

“Good job would have been killing the son of a bitch.”

“Tell us what...” Whitaker started to say before the sound of screeching tires came from outside, interrupting her.

“That’d be Cole. You called it in?”

“Yes.”

They could hear what sounded like an army crashing up the stairs. Cole appeared inside the room seconds later, a look of relief showing as soon as he saw Mary Jane sitting with them, unharmed.

Everything became chaos at that point. Cole hustled Mary Jane out of the room, probably taking her somewhere more secure before coming back in, clearly agitated.

“What happened?”

“Once the van exploded we realized Hubbard had set a trap to pull Caldwell’s security out of place,” Whitaker said. “Even though the Senator was gone, both our daughter and Mary Jane were here, so we rushed back. We found the agent down at the door and heard gunshots, after which Hubbard jumped out of Kara’s window. Taylor circled around the house, but Hubbard was gone by the time he got there. Then you showed up.”

“Who fired a weapon?”

“I did,” Kara said. “I heard something in the hallway right before my door was kicked in. I saw a man coming into the room, so I shot at him.”

“Where the hell did you get a gun?”

“I gave it to her,” Taylor said. “I was concerned with how close Hubbard had gotten and I wanted her to be able to protect herself.”

“What the hell were you thinking? You can’t give a teenager a firearm, especially a teenager in the same house as my protectees. Are you out of your mind?”

“It’s a good thing I did, otherwise Kara and Mary Jane would both be dead.”

“That’s beside the fact. She what, had the gun under her pillow? Then she’s firing in the dark blindly at an intruder? She could have hit anyone when the bullets went through the wall!”

“I’m not an idiot Cole. First, I’ve been training Kara in firearms and she spent a lot of time at the range. If she hadn’t been then I wouldn’t have given it to her. Look at the wall, there are no bullet impacts. She didn’t miss.”

“If she didn’t miss, then how the hell was Hubbard able to run away?”

“He was almost certainly wearing a vest. I taught her to aim center mass, and that’s where she would have shot. It was enough to drive him off, which was the whole point of giving her a weapon. We’re just lucky he kicked in her door first rather than Mary Jane’s, or you’d have more dead people on your hands.”

“It’s still careless and stupid. If you thought there was trouble, why didn’t you say anything to me? It’s our job to protect the Caldwells, not yours.”

“If it’s your job, then why do you have a man dead downstairs?”

“Because that’s what we do. We put our lives on the line every day for our protectees. I know someone like you doesn’t understand what that kind of commitment’s like, but we take it seriously.”

Taylor couldn’t help himself; he started to lunge forward at Cole. Thankfully, Whitaker had been standing more or less between them and could interpose herself between them, putting her back against Taylor’s chest. Had he been really determined, he would have been able to push past her, but she offered enough of a moment’s break for Taylor to get control of himself.

He’d gone a long way over the last few years getting control of his anger, but there were still moments when idiots like this triggered him.

“I appreciate you have protocols for everything, but you haven’t been treating Hubbard seriously since this whole thing started,” Whitaker said. “We tried to warn you from the beginning, but once you saw the man’s records, you should have realized how dangerous he is. The decision to react passively and wait for him to come to you is a mistake. He’s shown you how capable he is.”

“You’re going to get people killed,” Taylor said.

He felt Whitaker tense up and knew he shouldn’t bait Cole. Whitaker was trying to play the peacemaker and get everyone on the same side, and Taylor knew Cole was the kind of guy to get stubborn and defensive when challenged.

“The only person that’s going to get people killed around here is you,” Cole said, his face turning red. “Every minute you’re distracting my men from doing their jobs you put the Caldwells in danger. I know you pulled some strings to get access, but that ends here.”

“Agent Cole,” a voice called from the doorway. “I will decide who has access to my home. From what your men tell me, we have this young lady to thank for protecting my daughter. I appreciate all your efforts, and I am very sorry about your man, but I think we owe her our appreciation. Now, if you’ll excuse us, I’d like a few minutes.”

Cole glared one more time before turning and storming out.

“Senator, you should go wherever they took Mary Jane. We only got to see her briefly, but she’s very shaken up.”

“I spoke with her in the car while I was on the way here and she asked me to come here first. I’ll be going to see her next, but I wanted to make sure y’all were all right. Kara, sweetheart, are you okay?”

“I am fine.”

“Are you sure? I know doing something like that can be traumatic. I wanted to make sure you weren’t too upset having to shoot that man.”

“The only thing I am upset by is I did not kill him. Next time I’ll aim higher.”

Kara exchanged a brief glance with Taylor, which went unnoticed, or at least uncommented on, by the other two. Taylor and Kara didn’t often talk about the details of what happened to them in Russia just over a year ago when Kara helped rescue Mary Jane. They hadn’t mentioned to anyone that it had been Kara who’d shot and killed the man holding the Senator’s daughter.

Taylor had suggested that Kara keep her more ruthless side quiet, not advertising how cold she could be if needed. Beyond the fact that it would cause some people she might meet to judge her harshly, Taylor also thought it was useful to allow people to underestimate her. Kara was tiny and the farthest thing from intimidating, with her wild red hair and porcelain complexion. The thing that kept her safe, all those years living by someone else’s whims, had been her ability to compartmentalize and make the hard choices. While Taylor had worked hard with her to undo the trauma she’d had from her previous life, he didn’t want her to lose those two skills.

Whitaker might see the world as a good place and believe in justice and fair play, but Taylor was a realist. He knew the world was a heartless and cold place and wanted Kara to be able to keep it together when things went south. It’s why he hadn’t been worried about teaching her to protect herself or giving her the gun, and she’d just proven him right.

“I’m so sorry you had to get involved with this. Had I known he would have gotten this far, into our house, I wouldn’t have had you stay here. The last thing I wanted to do was put you in danger.”

“I already live with Mary Jane; I am in no more danger now than I was before.”

“Less so, especially now. Cole may be an asshole, but he’s good enough at his job to keep this from happening again,” Taylor said, grudgingly giving Cole the compliment. “Hell, we went with him to check on Hubbard’s sighting. He suckered all of us.”

“Still, it seems I will forever be in debt to your family.”

“Senator, we aren’t keeping score.”

“You have no idea how rare that is in my world. It’s why I trust you. All of you. Still, I’m not sure if it’s a good idea to keep having you involved in this.”

“Ma’am,” Whitaker said, “I know we’ve rubbed your security detail the wrong way, but...”

“Ohh, no, it’s not that. Them I can deal with. I’m more concerned about your safety. First John almost gets killed, then your apartment gets blown up, and now Kara. You three have given enough.”

“Senator, I know I speak for us all - myself, Whitaker, and Kara - when I say we aren’t going anywhere. Cole might be good at his job, but he isn’t taking Hubbard seriously enough. I know the man, or at least I know his type. I served with them. Hell, I was him, except for the being insane part. He’s not going to quit, and he’ll keep looking for new ways to get to you. We need to get this guy, and we need to do it soon.”

“I’ll talk to Agent Cole. I’m not sure I’ll have any luck getting him to work better with you, but I’ll make sure he doesn’t try and block you. I trust you. Just do what you need to do to get this guy.”

“You can count on us.”

She gave Kara and Whitaker parting hugs and headed back downstairs to deal with Agent Cole before she headed to console Mary Jane in person.

“Hey,” Taylor said. “You okay?”

“Yes. I’d like to go with Suzette to see Mary Jane, if that’s okay?”

Taylor looked at the broken window for a second, “That should be okay. I know the Senator would be happy to have you with them, and I don’t think Hubbard will make another try at her today. We should be pretty busy for the rest of the night anyway. Knowing Cole, he’s going to have a whole briefing in the next hour. I’m going to put this in your bag, just in case.”

 
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