Alice held the phone to her ear, then Travis’s voice came through, “Alice? You there?”
“Yeah,” she said, “I’m here.” She paused a second, then said, “I’m really here. In town.”
“What? In town? Like in Boston?” he said.
She paused a second, then took the plunge. “Yup.”
“That’s awesome! You should have called before and told me you were coming! Do you need a place to stay? When did you get in?” he asked.
“Just now. I’ve been on the ground about a half hour.” Alice glanced at her watch. “Maybe an hour.”
She could hear the smile in his voice. “Well, where are you? I’ll come pick you up and we can get coffee. What are you in town for?” There was a pause, then, “Sorry. Tell me in person.”
Alice looked up and gave him the cross streets. “Queensberry and Park. There’s like a college right nearby.”
“Yeah, welcome to Boston. I’d be surprised if there wasn’t. I’ll be there in ten. Don’t go anywhere.” He hung up.
Alice looked at her phone and sighed. Waiting was one of the things her “job” demanded that she had never mastered. She stopped walking and took in the scenery. It was a nice looking area, even if everything was covered in snow and ice. She silently debated whether it would keep her warmer to stuff her hands in her pockets or hold them over her ears. Deciding she didn’t want to look like an idiot when her brother saw her for the first time in four years, she put her hands in her pockets.
After a few minutes, of pacing there was no sign of Travis. She crossed the street over to what looked like a sizable apartment building and took a seat on the steps leading up to the entryway to at least get out of the wind while she waited. She settled into the alcove and rested on the step for a few minutes before a police car came rolling slowly down the street. The car’s siren bee-oooped for a half second before it stopped nearly directly in front of her and a heavyset cop stepped out.
Alice sized him up. He was a big guy, not someone she wanted to have to deal with head on. If she sprinted now, there would be no way he could catch her. She didn’t know about his partner; she couldn’t see him in the car. The partner would need to get out of his belt and open the door, so she would have a head start. She didn’t know the area, and they almost certainly did. So she didn’t know where she would run, but if there was a college nearby she was confident she could blend into a group of students.
The heavy cop outside the car was heading her way. It looked like he was brushing something off his chin with his finger. He was big, long legs, but way past merely out of shape. He had a gut on him that told the story of a lot of late nights with hot dogs, pizza, and beer. He wouldn’t be able to keep up with her for any sustained amount of running. Now that he was closer, the thing he was brushing off his chin looked like ketchup. Alice stood and started walking toward him, trying to appear calm. She wanted to be on her feet if she needed to bolt. She looked up into the cop’s eyes and froze. It was Travis, the brother she hadn’t seen in four years.
The last time she had seen Travis, he had been a wall of solid muscle. They had been training pretty hard. Really hard. Day and night, for what they were up against. It hadn’t been easy to find the time outside of school, so Alice had started skipping classes. Travis had been more sensible and had gotten a spot on the football team where he could spend hours and hours in the gym and nobody would care. Hell, they would praise him.
Alice had decided on their regimen. They were going to need to be able to fight. They were going to need to know how to hit hard and get out of the way. What she didn’t know then, but had learned, was that they also needed to know how to take a hit that knocked the wind out of you and roll with it, get up and run. They needed to know how to fight with every last ounce of strength they had left, how to never ever give up.
Their foster dad, Gary, hadn’t been much for parenting. When they first came to live with him, he had tried to be “involved” but they hadn’t really been interested. He never beat them or did anything that would have made the news. He just sort of settled into a benign neglect over the years and let them do their own thing with minimal supervision, and no guidance. Once they were 18, he told them they were old enough to take care of themselves, that he’d done his job.
And when Travis turned 18, he left. He’d gone to state school, and Alice hadn’t really stayed in touch with him through that. They were only two years apart, but she had been pissed off that he had decided to just go to regular school after what had happened. She had figured he would have found somewhere he could train with weapons, get a head start on learning what they needed to know.
Alice had two years before she could head out on her own. Without Travis to keep her in line, she cut class with abandon and started spending a lot more time online, where she could learn things she could actually use. Carpentry, lockpicking, firearm maintenance. These were skills she could use. She didn’t need to know about the Peloponnesian war or how to solve for x.
By the time Alice had turned 18, she had already fallen more than a year behind, and she decided to drop the pretense of being enrolled in school. Gary told her that he would give her $50 and a bus ticket to wherever she wanted to go, so she had told him she was headed to L.A. Travis came back for her birthday, and had driven her to the station the next morning.
Alice remembered Travis saying goodbye. He had given her a number to call him on, made her memorize it, told her that he could stay with him if she ever needed it, that college was good if she ever wanted to go back and get her GED. She remembered his green eyes, the same as hers. Travis was the bigger one by far, and to Alice’s mind, the smarter one too. He was tall and thin in her memory, over six four, all lean muscle, no more than one eighty. And then he was gone. That was four years ago. The minute he left, she had gotten a refund of the ticket. A bus ticket out to California isn’t cheap, and Gary could afford to give her more than $50.
Alice looked at the man in front of her. His eyes were the same, green as green, and he still had the short crew cut dirty blonde hair. He was still tall, but he looked like all the defined muscle he had worked so hard for over the years had been melted off and replaced with something… doughy. Between that and the uniform, it was no wonder Alice hadn’t recognized him. She scowled. She supposed it had been four years, and people were bound to change. She just hadn’t expected this.