Dark and windy and wet, the rainy November night smelled of car exhaust and Italian food, with a hint of saltwater from the harbor. Boston.
Lucky Franklin sniffed appreciatively. The college campus wasn’t exactly at the waterfront, but it was close enough. Walking after dark in this city put her into an adventurous mood. She could feel the rebellious energy of those argumentative patriots and outlaws, from the riots at Haymarket Square to the recent trial of a captured mobster in the cold stone buildings nearby.
She sniffed again. That great pizza place, just before the college buildings lined up in front of her. How could you explain Boston pizza to your family back home in Vermont? They had no clue. Even more important, neither her father nor her mother – heaven knows, not her mother! – would ever understand how much this really good Boston pre-law program meant for the career she’d chosen.
Boston was where real life happened.
Brakes on a side street screeched and made her jump. A shove in the middle of her back knocked her against the store wall. She gagged at the smell of unwashed male mingled with booze, as a heavy-set man swore at her and ran past. Sirens coming closer told her someone probably had reported this already, but she groped for her phone in her pocket anyway, to press the panic button if anyone else came near her.
The “Lone Ranger” theme burst from the cell phone in her hand, startling her. She struggled to catch her breath and sound calm as she started walking again toward the campus, hitting “Answer” and saying “Hi Dad.” No point getting her dad worried about something he’d turn into a reason to pull her back to Vermont.
Darned cell phones – the connection failed. She waited a moment for her father to call back, then pushed option 2 to return the call to him from her phone. It went straight through to voicemail.
“Hey Dad, what’s up. You can call me back until midnight if you want. Then I’ve got to get some sleep. Exams and all that, you know. Love you. Say hi to Mom.”
When she ended the message, she eyed the screensaver image of her enormous tortoise back at home. She knew it was a dumb thing to have on her phone, not up to Boston or pre-law, but what the heck. Of all her family in Vermont, she missed her dad the most – and Veruca the tortoise second.
Three more days of classes, and then Thanksgiving break. Most of the freshmen were headed home for the week. Lucky knew her dad would come pick her up from Boston if she asked him, but she’d already decided to ride the bus. She wanted time to decompress. Who knew the honors track here would be so stressful?
For a moment, she thought about calling her mother, just to say hi and ask what Dad wanted. But she’d reached the dorm, and as she swiped her ID card to get inside, her roommate Emilie burst in behind her, laughing, carrying a six-pack of diet soda and a box of pizza. Perfect timing for a couple more hours of studying.
“I’ll meet you upstairs,” she promised her roommate, gesturing toward the mailboxes. As long as her dad was on her mind, she’d check and see whether he’d mailed her a card or something. He often did.
This roommate situation was way better than Lucky had expected. Emilie’s boyfriend was in the police program at the college, and Emilie took forensic classes that involved samples collected at crime scenes – supposedly, anyway. How could you do better than have a roommate who loved to buy pizza and argue about crime?
Lucky scrunched her nose as she pulled an insurance ad out of her mailbox, and nothing from Vermont. Climbing the stair, she wished freshman pre-law gave her livelier experiences to talk about with Emilie. At least a chance to sit in on cases, or maybe some kind of justice project. Wasn’t Boston supposed to be the home of liberty and all that?
But her home state of Vermont was way ahead. Lucky counted off the legal precedents of her home state: mainstreaming handicapped kids in the classroom, no-fault divorces, civil unions and now same-sex marriages. Which made her suddenly miss her closest friends at home, Sandy and Michelle. If only she could bring them down to meet Emilie!
So when her cell phone woke her at seven in the morning, with just an ordinary ringtone, nobody she knew, she rolled over and answered it anyway, thinking maybe one of her parents was calling back from an office phone or something.
“Felicity Franklin? Is this Ms. Felicity Franklin?”
Nobody who knew her called her Felicity. Just Lucky. “Who’s calling, please?”
“Ms. Franklin? This is Sergeant Bill Marcus calling, from the Montpelier, Vermont, Police. I’m sorry to call this early, but your mother asked me to let you know she’s going to phone you in a few minutes, so you can wake up some before she talks with you. I’m afraid she can only make one call this morning.”
“My mother?” Lucky sat up, kicking off the blanket. “Where is she? Has there been an accident? Is she all right?”
“She’s in police custody,” the stiff professional voice said. “And she’s not hurt. I’ll let her –”
“Wait, wait! Is it my father? Has he been in some accident? Tell me what’s happened!” Lucky realized her rising voice had just woken Emilie up. “What’s happened to my father?”
“I’m sorry, Ms. Franklin, I’m not going to tell you that, just now. I’ll let your mother speak with you. She says she’ll be calling you in just a minute. And she’ll be allowed ten minutes on the phone with you. No, Mrs. Franklin, just ten minutes.” The connection broke abruptly.
Her roommate scrabbled up from the other bed and asked, “What’s wrong?”
Lucky gasped, “Something’s happened to my dad.”
“Omigod.” Emilie came to sit next to her, one hand patting her shoulder. “What is it?”
The cell phone rang again, this time the theme from “Star Wars.” Lucky answered it on speaker so Emilie could hear. “Mom? Mom, what’s happened to Dad? What’s going on?”
“Some idiot shot him,” her mother’s angry voice replied, “and this bigger bunch of idiots in the police station think it was me. For heaven’s sake, stop wasting time, just call your brother and get him to bring you home, and while you wait for him, call your uncle Mike for me. Tell him I need a better lawyer. Don’t just sit there, say yes, and get started, would you?”
Now Lucky noticed the tremble in her mother’s voice, under the anger, and it scared her. “Someone shot Dad -- what do you mean? He’s hurt?”
“They told me he may die,” her mother said flatly. “But I don’t believe them. Come home, Lucky. And for god’s sake, don’t let your brother get any speeding tickets on the way.”