Jack looked up, a cool gaze coming to rest on the dark-suited aide who stood in front of him, clipboard in hand. “The senator will see you now.”
He rose from his seat in the lobby and followed the young man to the door. As Jack stepped inside, the President-Elect was already standing, a tall, regal figure gliding across the room to greet him.
“Mr. Bauer.” The Illinois senator smiled brightly as he extended his hand. “It is a profound pleasure to finally meet you in person. Welcome to Chicago.” Long, graceful fingers wrapped around Jack’s hand, and he analyzed the handshake--firm but light, bordering on intimate. His eye contact was measured, poised, exuding a certain tranquility that Jack had seldom seen in the eyes of a man who was just under a month away from taking the burdens of the nation’s highest office onto his shoulders.
“I’m honored that you would ask me here,” Jack said in earnest, almost begrudgingly releasing the senator’s hand.
“The pleasure is all mine, I insist.” Another disarming smile, and Jack was sure he felt something deep within his subconscious melt. This guy’s something else. “Please, have a seat.” Jack did, while the senator returned to the chair behind his desk. “You must be wondering why I called you here.”
“Yes, sir, I am curious.” Jack admitted, meeting the other man’s placid gaze.
“The conversation we had on the phone last week didn’t allude to much, I know. But this isn’t a question I’d want to ask you over the phone; I’d much rather ask you in person.”
“I understand, sir.”
“Mr. Bauer, I’ve been over your record, and I must admit, it is remarkable.” There was a manila file folder on the desk in front of the President-Elect, and he flipped it open with an elegant hand. “You served in the United States Army,” he remarked. “Delta Force. I see you’ve also served on the LAPD SWAT division, the CIA and CTU Los Angeles.”
“That’s correct, Senator Obama, sir.”
“That isn’t necessary. Call me Barack. Or, I was hoping, you might call me ‘Renegade?’” He flashed another smile, and Jack felt his stomach jump.
According to a news report Jack had seen weeks and weeks ago, “Renegade” was the codename given to the President-Elect by the Secret Service. Was he asking…? Fortunately, Jack didn’t have long to wonder. “Jack, I’m just going to cut to the chase here. You have shown superb performance both in the field and behind the scenes in this nation’s fight against those who would do us harm, and I must admit, I’m impressed. You are the type of individual I would trust with the safety and security of this country without as much as a second thought, and--” The man who would be President paused. “The man I would willingly trust with my own.” Jack blinked.
“What are you asking?”
“I’m asking you to be head of my Secret Service detail.”
Jack, who was a man of few words to begin with, was stunned speechless.
“Senator,” he said after he’d processed the statement. “I don’t know what to say.”
“Your record, sir, speaks volumes for itself.” The President-Elect smiled, folding his hands on the desk in front of him, and meeting Jack’s eyes with an understanding gaze. “I’m not asking you for a ‘yes’ or ‘no’ here and now. Take a few days, think it over, and get back to me. I’ll have one of the aides give you my personal number.”
“I’ll do that. Thank you, sir.”
The President-Elect rose from his seat, as did Jack, and the two shook hands across the desk.
“I hate to cut this meeting short, but I have a noon appointment with an analyst from Homeland Security. Mr. Bauer, it’s been a pleasure, and I hope you’ll be in touch soon.”
“Thank you, sir. I will.”
Senator Obama showed Jack out of the office.
Upon collecting the information he needed from the young aide in the dark suit, Jack collected his coat and scarf and headed for the door.
He still had half a day to spend in Chicago, and he figured he might as well make the most of it.