If you haven't been around for this before, a couple of caveats. This is a story in progress, meaning most of the time that days entry will be written shortly before it gets posted. This means my ability to do anything more than a passing edit is...negligible. Be prepared for some rough patches. Feel free to comment if I've renamed a character suddenly, or confused you about a plot point (though I'm fond of the sideways story so maybe hold that concern for later in the month).
Let the adventure begin!
One, never take a job she didn’t know all the specs of. This saved a lot of trouble she’d seen other people working personal security detail get into. The sort where they took a ‘simple’ job that was supposed to be transport or special job security and it turned into a three-month saga and enough paperwork to paper mache an oceangoing raft. The joke around the Officer’s Club was that these were ‘just’ jobs. Any job someone pitched to you as “You’re just doing x.”
JJ didn’t do ‘just’ jobs.
The second rule?
Never take a job where the mark wanted to be her friend. She’d learned real quick not to take jobs where the mark wanted to be her friend. It never worked. She couldn’t be their friend, not and protect them in any reasonable amount.
She also just…just didn’t want to? The kind of people who could afford to pay for her type of security were not the kind of people she had anything in common with. They were so rich their great-grandchildren wouldn’t be able to spend it fast enough, and half the time they’d never been outside the secured zones, and always they had expectations of who she was and what that meant.
She’d come out of training knowing she didn’t want to do ‘just’ jobs. And scored high enough marks she could be picky about that. Graduating top of her class had some perks, being worth too much for ‘simple’ jobs was one of them. The jobs where the mark wanted to be her friend were a little hard to dodge, but so far she’d managed a solid five years and she’d worked repeat jobs, but nobody had ever invited her to a social gathering yet.
“Ah, Commander Jennings.” Todd stood in the door to his office while she stepped off the lift, and smiled the bright, toothy kind of smile that said the client was already in his office and she was probably going to have a bad day.
“Chief Todd.” JJ tucked her helmet under her arm. She could have worn her dress uniform today, plenty of people did. It made the clients feel fuzzy and special. “I hope I’m not late.”
Todd stepped back. “Perfectly on time, as always.”
JJ stepped into the office, and nodded deferentially to the woman taking up the chaise against the wall. She was older, probably at least sixty, with a perfectly turned out suit that cost more than JJ made in a year, and her ‘day’ jewels, without a hair or a freckle out of place. She had the kind of china white skin that’d gone out of fashion forty years ago, even if the suit was a newer model.
“It’s an unsual circumstance,” Todd said gently, sitting on the edge of his desk.
He’d said that in the quote for services, but nobody talked about that in front of the client. JJ stood at a relaxed attention and waited patiently.
“Allow me to introduce Jacqueline Rose Corbet.”
JJ shook hands the way she was expected to. She knew who the Corbet’s were. Old money, and more power than most people thought anyone should have, and family tendrils everywhere. “Ma’am.”
“Mrs. Corbet is the client, but she’s not the person who needs protection.” Todd smiled that perfect customer service smile at Mrs. Corbet and then turned and locked eyes with her.
So, Mrs. Corbet had been told this wasn’t an ideal way to do this, and she’d dug her heels in.
“I see.” It didn’t matter if she’d been told already. She’d be told again, even if it wasn’t just by JJ. “I understand your dedication to your family, Ma’am.” It’d be a grandchild, probably, given the age attached to the service quote. “But it’s…difficult to provide security for people who don’t want it.”
Jacqueline Corbet watched her through pale eyes. “My grandson is a bright young man, and very good at what he does. He is not the most…practical soul.” She shifted, relaxing back. “I understand your concerns, Commander Jennings, but I assure you he will not be unwilling. I am instigating the contract for logistical reasons, not because he was unwilling.”
Which she’d bet a year’s salary meant he was a giant man child. JJ could handle that, probably. He wouldn’t be the first entitled, trust fund idiot she’d been forced to physically drag from point a to point b. For a while there, those people had been her bread and butter.
“Mrs. Corbet understands our reluctance, and attached a twenty percent completion waver to the contract,” Todd said. “Though I’ve pointed out you’ll have to meet the target and assess viability yourself.”
JJ nodded. Because she did, and she would. “The exact details of the job seemed…tenuous.” In that they’d been more or less nonexistent. A three-week contract wasn’t unusual, but a three-week contract with no actual listed reasoning and very little information was.
“My grandson has received threats of a personal nature. They have been properly turned over to the appropriate security officials. In normal circumstances however worrisome that situation might be, it likely wouldn’t lead to the need for personal security.” Jacqueline adjusted her bracelet. “My grandson is a professional, and he has a speaking and teaching engagement beginning this coming week. For three weeks there will be an order of magnitude more people in his life than there generally are.” She sighed. “He refuses to step back from this commitment, and no amount of the rest of us pointing out his professional life isn’t worth losing his life over will convince him.”
Todd nodded. “As such Mrs. Corbet and I have discussed a general shadow arrangement, with appropriate digital backup.”
Which was pretty standard. She’d go everywhere the mark went, and there’d be a separate contract for digital surveillance she could liaise with at need. “And the completion waiver?”
“If Mrs. Corbet’s grandson makes it through the full three weeks without sustaining serious injury, as defined by the contract terms, the bonus is paid. You’ll want to read them, but they’re standard.”
Meaning as long as he didn’t have to be admitted to the hospital for injuries sustained under her care the job paid an extra twenty percent.
“Monday isn’t a lot of time to plan, given I haven’t met the target.”
“He’s late,” Jacqueline insisted dryly. “But he informs me he is on his way.”
JJ nodded, and looked at Todd. “Do you have layouts of the venue and his living arrangements?”
“I do.” He nodded. “As well as his normal travel itinerary.” There was a connotation there, but he wouldn’t clarify it in front of the client.
JJ stepped up to the digitized board next to the desk and looked at the apartment scans they’d provided. It was a relatively low-key place, three bedrooms in an older building. But it had its own building security she’d need to evaluate by Monday morning. They’d marked the guest room next to the master as where she’d be expected to stay while she was on the job.
She’d moved on to the systems listing—what kind of windows the building had, and how the doors were connected to the security feed made a difference in what kind of portable systems she could attach without compromising building security. She could have compromised building security, if she felt like she needed to, but people got twitchy when you did that and most of the time she didn’t find it warranted.
A shadow moved in the door, and JJ looked up and instantly knew he was the mark. He looked like a mark.
He knocked loudly on the frame in a clever rhythm and smiled perfect white teeth in a perfect jaw. “Maman!” He exclaimed and practically jumped across the room and kissed Jacqueline on the cheeks. “Sorry I’m late. I promise I didn’t forget.”
“Liam.” Jacqueline sounded tired. “Do behave yourself with some comportment.”
He sat down next to his grandmother and beamed at her. “Now now, if I can’t be excited and indelicate with my grandmother who can I be?” He looked over and jumped back up, holding a hand out for Todd. “You must be Chief Todd.”
Todd shook. “Mr. Corbet.”
“Liam, please.” He looked at the schematics on the board. “Oh, is that my place? How interesting. I’ve never seen it like that. It looks very serious.”
JJ blinked at him. There were rhinestones on his designer jeans, and his stupidly expensive polo shirt at the little digitized moving alligator logo, and he was leaning in to look at the schematics like it was a band poster.
Absolutely. Not. JJ thought, wondering if it was time to add a third rule.
If you're just bored and looking for something to read, you can started here, at the letter A in Cornucopia Conundrum, my story from 2017.
Or you can started here, at the letter A in 2018's story (that I apparently never gave a title).