Levi turns off Highway 90 and slowly drives his rental car up to Rolf’s house. Visitors by Appointment Only, reads a small sign on a metal post between the trees that line the paved drive.  He recognizes Lana’s red Volvo sedan from the latest US magazine, the one with a picture of Jax on the cover with his head in his hands, captioned “Unengaged”.

He walks up to the large cathedral doors, and Lana opens one and beckons him to come inside.  Hi, she tells him.  She leads him into the living room, where Rolf is seated on the couch with his reading glasses on, looking over some paperwork. Levi, I’d like you to meet my partner, Rolf Asgaard.  Rolf stands up and smiles easily as they shake hands, and gestures for him to have a seat.  Lana disappears and comes back with a water for him.  Thanks for coming, she tells him.  LRA LLC is a closely held security consulting firm.  LRA: Lana, Rolf, and Associates.  Now please open the packet that we’ve put together for you.  Rolf hands him a leather binder, and Levi takes it and opens it.  The first page is a non disclosure agreement.  Before we go further, please sign and date the NDA, Lana says.  He does.  Please hand it to Rolf, who’ll see that it’s been duly executed, Lana says. Rolf scans the document and nods at Lana.

Our work is project based.  The client you’ll be assigned to, Levi, should you accept our offer, is the Honorable Senator John Johns.  Our primary tasks are to deter threats with a visible presence and to mitigate adverse outcomes as exigent circumstances arise.  We coordinate with state and local law enforcement as well as with volunteers at events.  The project’s expected duration is until the Senator gets Secret Service coverage.

The next page of your packet is compensation. We pay $400 day for armed security with a valid concealed carry license.  Do you qualify, sir?  He nods. State of Utah.  Good.  Let me see it please, along with your driver’s license.  He hands them to her, and she goes over to her workstation and makes a copy.  He reads the bullet points on the compensation page:

*Shelter costs are covered by the campaign.

*Incidentals are paid with a dedicated charge card that you’ll be given.

*Cash advances of $200/day are available with the use of your charge card

*We issue monthly settlements with itemized withholdings.

She comes back and returns his licenses.  So you have any questions for me regarding compensation?  He shakes his head no.

The next page of your packet is work life balance. It’s blank, Levi notes wrily. Exactly, Lana says grinning.  We are currently on a seven days on, seven days off schedule, as the Senator alternates campaigning with his elected duties in DC.  What you do with your days off is your business.  You don’t need to report in.

Probably the most difficult part of the routine, Levi, is not eating with the campaign team at the stops.  We watch while they eat.  We ride hungry, Levi.  We don’t snack in the vehicle because the Senator needs to keep his weight down, but we do a lot of meal replacement shakes and supplements.  The work is mentally tough, but not physically demanding at all, which doesn’t make for a healthy lifestyle.  One thing that I insisted on with the Senator is that we never have anything in our hands when we are on duty.  I never want to see a picture of you with your ear bud in and a coffee cup or a water in your hand.  That is so unprofessional.

We layer our security.  Tim is inner perimeter, as he and the Senator have a rapport.  I’m outer perimeter, usually at the vehicles.  You’ll be at the choke point for interception.   Tim’s been on the campaign trail with me all this time, and he’s never had to draw his weapon.  There’s been a few minor incidents, usually centered around Bettina and myself.  I’d prefer to take the lead in a violent altercation.  I’m only asking you to deflect the assailant.  I’ll put him or her down, and take the legal consequences.

Levi, I want to stress that your job is NOT to be a thug.  It’s one thing for Samantha to demonstrate her hand to hand proficiency, quite another for you.  Ask for backup.  Just making eye contact and speaking into your lapel mic will deter most of the wacko birds.  I’ll come over with local law enforcement and handle the ejection.  If you draw your gun, you better be prepared to use it.

On threats.  We don’t expect an active shooter just because it’s out there that Tim and I are armed.  We do expect activists and paid provocateurs, who will attempt to disrupt proceedings and spew vitriol in an attempt to upset the composure of our client.  And we will proactively eject them.  Again, I’d like to be on point here.  It’s more humiliating to be slapped around by a woman for mouthing off.

The client is supposed to reimburse LRA in the event of a violent altercation, but the reality is that if it goes bad, I expect the campaign to disavow our actions.  So the way it works is that we will pay any medical and legal expenses incurred in the course of duty - until LRA runs out of money.  The last page in your packet is a memorandum of understanding to that effect.  Do you have any questions for me regarding your duties?  Levi shakes his head no.

The last item we need to discuss is termination. Louisiana is an at will state, which means that I can fire you at any time without cause at my sole discretion. I’m the engagement partner here, and will be supervising your activities.  If the client objects to you, you’re gone.  If there is a clash between you and Tim, you’re gone.  If I see you doing something that I don’t approve of, and I warn you and you don’t fix it, you’re gone.  You’re being hired to do a job, so do it well.  He looks at her and draws his head back.

I know that sounds harsh, Levi, but I was trained as a cop, and one of the first things my mentor taught me is that a cop has no friends.  You need to understand that about me.   Got it.  He says.  I don’t think you do yet, because you’ve only seen me off duty, she tells him, but I’m really glad to see you come on board, Levi.

Now, there’s a W4 and a direct deposit form for you to fill out and return to me.  We do monthly settlements to minimize the paperwork, but you’ll be able to take up to $200 cash advances daily out of your charge card at any ATM machine.

Do you have any questions for me?

When do I start?  Return the paperwork, and we’ll go to a Glock training event together on Saturday.  We’ll get to try out their new model 48.  Sounds good. Thank you for stopping by, she says standing up and offering him her hand.  Rolf stands up as well, and shakes hands again, as Lana walks to the door and opens it for him.  Goodnight, Levi.  Goodnight, Lana.

***

Well, how did it go?  Sam asks him when he gets back in.  “A cop has no friends” is what she told me.  What does that mean?  Sam asks.  She’ll fire me if I screw up.

How much is she paying you?  $400/day.  Sam grunts, secretly delighted that she gets $100/day more. That’s pretty rich, she comments.

So what did you think of Rolf?  He didn’t say a word.  He just sat there studying me and taking everything in.  Samantha grins.  That’s Rolf.  Remind me to tell you about Lana’s Rolf IQ test sometime.  I’m going to bed.  When do you start?  We’re going shooting together this weekend, he tells her over his shoulder.  Sam frowns, suddenly jealous.

After Toni goes to work early in the morning, Sam gets up and brews a cup of coffee and goes into her office.  She puts her headset on and calls her uncle.  Hello, Samantha.  Uncle, she says softly, I hardly slept last night.  Levi told me what you did, she says softly.  Please reconsider.  I really want Lana to be my sister.  It would be so nice to have a friend like her close by as I go to live in a foreign country.

It’s a simple trade, Saul replies.  Lana for you.

Lana knows, uncle.  Dona Tia told her.  Bettina says she’s really out of spirits.  That she wrote Raul a letter and it just said: I grieve.  Please, uncle.

Let Levi have his chance with her, Samantha.

About that, one of Toni’s co-workers came over the other day, and wanted her to introduce him to Lana.  And of course, Toni said no way.  But I gave him her phone number as a prank, just to see what would happen.  He asked her out to coffee, but she thought he was asking for her help on a case. When he finally explained that he was asking her on a date, she got flustered, and asked if Toni had given him her number.  He told her that I gave him it, and she didn’t say anything for awhile, and then agreed to go meet him for coffee that evening.  I felt so bad, uncle, because I’d just vouched for this guy unknowingly, and she did it just for my sake.

But Lana is super smart.  And she gets him laughing and builds a rapport by talking about why revolvers are superior to pistols for an ankle gun.  What’s the reason? Saul interrupts.  They don’t go out of battery when you press them up against your opponent.  He thinks what she was hinting at is that an ankle holster takes too long to deploy from, and that the “scumbag”, her word, would be all over him, beating him, and he wouldn’t have the presence of mind to hold the gun away from the perp’s body. Back to my Lana story.  So this FBI agent asks her about the shootout, and she tells him that she was glad she had her Glock and fifteen rounds.  Then she plays out this hypothetical.  What if the Chechens came in here and we weren’t quick enough because we were busy looking into each other’s eyes and they triple tapped us.  Do you believe that you’d go to heaven?  And she wouldn’t let him off the hook and dodge the question.  Finally he gave her an answer, and she told him that she couldn’t date him because of it.  That she had just gotten out of a relationship with a wonderful man who didn’t share her beliefs when they started dating, and she wasn’t going down that road again.  And of course, he walked into her trap and asked her what she believed.  She told him that she was a Christian, but had a hard time explaining what that meant in a way that he could understand.  Finally she ended up telling him “believe it or go to hell”.  And he was shocked and she said, you asked.  And he protested that she brought it up.  And she told him that it would have come up sooner or later, and better now before she fell in love with him.  That she has a thing for strong men who protect others.  You know how good she is with words.

Then she got him talking about being an FBI agent, and they had a really good visit.   Toni said that he really likes her, but he’s never going to call her again. Uncle, I’m convinced the whole reason she went through that exercise with him is so that it would get back to Levi, which of course it did because Toni couldn’t wait to tell me when she got back in from work, and Levi was there.

So you might want to recalibrate.  What did Levi have to say?  He asked me if I knew what the English word “absorb” meant. And told me it meant to argue later. Toni said that he would make a good husband, and I blurted out, not for Lana; she’s going to be my sister.  And that’s when he let slip your demand on Raul.

You know that there is a simple way to resolve this, Samantha.  Break your engagement to Ortega and marry Levi.  Sam doesn’t say anything for awhile.  Yes, I could do that, she finally admits, but to the satisfaction of no one.  Levi has moved on, uncle.  Lana has captivated him.  And do you really want Ramon Ortega unleashed and off the reservation?  It’d be war, uncle.  We’d eventually win, but my friend Lana would get caught in the crossfire, and I’d be a widow having to raise a kid by herself.

I’ll think about what you said, Sam, her uncle tells her. Thanks, uncle.  Bye now.