September 7, 2018 mjsutton

She called me that night in a panic.

“They’re next door, Dad! I can hear them!”

“Lock your doors, get Evelin to the bathroom, and lock that too!” I paced my bedroom in my robe—Laura sat straight up in bed as we listened to Sarah begin locking doors on the other end.

“Has she called the police?” Laura asked, face pale.

My pace didn’t slow. “I’m sure.”

It killed me being on the other side of the state from her, but my job demanded me here—and hers there. Her husband—or ex, I should say—had left a year ago, off to find bigger and better things, leaving my daughter and granddaughter to live on their own. Sarah was more than capable, but with the lack of income she was forced to move, and her new neighborhood wasn’t exactly what I wanted for her.

On the other side of the call, Sarah herded Evelin into the bathroom. Her oldest daughter, Samantha, had moved out months ago to a dorm room.

Evelin cried softly in the background. “I hate this place,” Sarah said under her breath.

“Did you call the police?”

“Yes, Dad.” I could hear a hint of irritation, but I couldn’t be mad. Not when she was in danger—there was a tremble in her voice, and the phone was catching Evelin’s sniffling.

“I’m just asking, baby.”

“You can hear them! They’re tearing the complex apart.”

A loud bang rang from the receiver, and Evelin cried a bit harder. Sarah quieted her as best she could.

Laura and I sat listening, helpless. I should have pushed harder when I asked if she wanted to stay with us a while, get back on her feet, after her ex left. She’d refused out of pride, but maybe if I’d argued—

 

The next morning, I called in a favor. The secret service was going to train us both on firearm operation. She had never shot before, and I had little experience, so the thought of us learning together seemed not only necessary, but like a good opportunity to spend time with my daughter. Being the vice president leaves little time to socialize with those whom you truly want.

She drove up the following weekend and we went gun shopping. I told her to pick what she wanted; no price was too much. She ended up choosing a snub-nose 38, chrome with a pink handle. Always was the girly-girl.

 

We arrived at the secret service range thirty minutes early. My daughter sat in the front seat, bouncing up and down like a child ready to ride the roller coaster. I smiled at her, and she laughed a little, raising an eyebrow at me.

“What?” she asked.

“Just amazing how you’ve grown up.”

She slapped my arm lightly and we both hopped out the car, heading to the front door.

My cell phone rang—never out of the ordinary, so I ignored the call. Another call came immediately after, and I fished the phone from my pocket to set it on silent. Our instructor had his arms crossed; his black suit shined in the soft glow of the overhead lamps.

Sarah smiled, rocking on her tip-toes.

“Ready, Mr. Mason?” he asked.

I nodded. I felt my phone vibrate in my pocket.

We followed the man through the door. My hand had almost closed it when a set of long-fingernailed fingers gripped it from the other side and pulled it open.

A stern-looking woman with mousy-brown hair and a downturned mouth greeted me, her free hand brandishing a phone. “Mr. Mason,” she said.

With a nod I took the phone, trying not to sigh. I brought the receiver to my ear.

I held a firm posture in the doorway as I listened to the phone. It took all I had to keep my voice neutral. “Yes, sir.”

I handed the receptionist the phone back and shot a glance at Sarah. She nodded, pinching one side of her mouth.

“Everything okay?” she asked, voice flat.

I felt a grimace come to my face in place of a smile. “Absolutely, baby.”

“You have to go, through?”

“Afraid so.”

I kissed her forehead and shook the instructor’s hand before I walked out the building.

I hated lying to her, but I always had to, especially with things like this. Everything wasn’t okay—far from it.

The Russians had just declared war with the only enemy they had. Us.