Alice held the phone to her ear, then despite the years that had passed since she last heard it, Travis’s voice came through, instantly recognizable, “Alice? You there?”
“Yeah,” she said, “I’m here.” She paused a second, then said, “I’m really here. I’m in town.”
“What?” There was silence for a moment before he continued. “In town? Like in Boston?”
She paused a second, then took the plunge. “Yup.”
“Oh! Oh my god! I- You should have called 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. “Shit. I’m kind of jammed up here, but shit, where are you? I’ll come pick you up. We can get coffee. What are you in town for?” There was a pause, then, “Sorry. Um, nevermind. Just… I’m just glad you’re here. I’ll come get you. Where are you?”
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. Gimme ten minutes. Don’t go anywhere.” He hung up.
Alice looked at her phone and sighed. One of the things her “job” demanded, that was absolutely instrumental, but she had never mastered, was patience. Waiting never sat well with her. She always felt like she would be better off taking action. Intellectually, she understood that sometimes the best thing to do is nothing, but there was no convincing her gut that she shouldn’t be doing something. She stopped walking and took a deep breath, the cold biting her lungs. This 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 years, she put her hands in her pockets.
After a few minutes of pacing there was no sign of Travis and the wind was starting to pick up, blowing the loose snow off the tops of the banks and parked cars. Alice felt like the wind had somehow managed to blow the snow simultaneously into her face and the back of her head, frosting her close cut hair with ice and burning her cheeks. She crossed the street over to what looked like a sizable apartment building and went the steps leading to the entryway to at least get out of the wind while she waited. She settled in and leaned against the wall of the alcove for a few minutes. Unable to simply wait with just her thoughts, she passed the time checking the local map on her phone. The cold made her fingers ache, but she switched hands every few seconds to try to fight off the cold and stomped her feet to keep her blood moving.
Knowing the local area would be good if she needed to get anywhere without having the time to check her phone. It looked like there was a museum nearby. And some hospitals, and it looked like she could head in any direction for a few minutes and be just about guaranteed to hit a college. She was switching hands when she notice a police car rolling slowly down the street. She stuffed her phone in her pocket and stood quietly, hoping to look inconspicuous. The car slowed, and the siren bee-oooped for a half second before it stopped nearly directly in front of her. Alice rolled her eyes to herself. Of course she’s in town for under an hour and she’s already getting noticed by local law enforcement.
After a few seconds, a heavyset cop got out of the passenger side of the car. Alice sized him up. He was a big guy, not someone she would want to have to deal with head on. The last thing Alice needed was to start appearing in the police records before her job even started. She debated with herself whether she would be better off described in the interaction report as a white, short-haired Jane Doe who fled the officer on approach, or if she could give him a false name and equally false apology for loitering and be on her way.
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 that well, despite having just checked the map, and they almost certainly did. But she did know she could get to the Northeastern campus in under a short run, and she was confident she could blend into a group of students. She briefly wondered if the BPD used dashboard and body cameras. Her shoulders fell; she was almost definitely better off lying.
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 a long story of late nights with pizza and beer, and mornings sitting in a car with donuts and coffee. Now that he was closer, the thing he was brushing off his chin looked like ketchup. Maybe he was more of a hot dog man. Alice smirked to herself. That’s more of a New York sort of stereotype, wasn’t it? She reconsidered taking off. She could picture this guy having a heart attack trying to run her down. But it was still a bad idea. She straightened her posture and started walking toward him, trying to look trustworthy, whatever that looked like. Just looking confident would have to suffice, then. She looked up into the cop’s eyes and what she saw there made her freeze in her tracks.