I was mere seconds away from leaving my office for the weekend—well, for what remained of the weekend: it was nearly 4 p.m. on a Saturday, and after a long week of cases I was primed for an evening of New England Revolution soccer with my lovely girlfriend Lauryn Kennedy. I had on my lilywhite Revs home jersey with Fagundez 14 stitched into the back, and a red, white and blue Revs scarf wrapped around the back of my neck. The keys to my new-to-me Ford Escort were in my hand, we had tickets for The Fort at Gillette Stadium, and I was just about to walk out the door when I heard those rapid footsteps on the way up to my office.
“Oh, hell,” I muttered, knowing that within five seconds, someone would walk in and have me take on their case. The timing was beyond impeccable. I took off my scarf and tossed it onto my desk, then turned and awaited their arrival.
I saw the silhouette of whoever had walked up the stairs through the frosted glass, but it didn’t seem like the silhouette’s owner was coming in any time soon. It’s when I saw the shadow turn that I noticed something bulky on the person’s hip. It could have been a nasty growth or a deformity of some kind, but when the person bent over and slipped several thin envelopes through the slot, I breathed a sigh of relief. It was only the mailman. It was anticlimactic, but still.
I walked over and scooped up the day’s delivery. I flipped through them, the pads of my fingertips running over the heavy paper. I beamed at the sight of a check from the little old lady who had cornered me at Espresso Pizza a week ago and asked me to get a group of foreigners off her tail. Apparently they were trying to scam her out of money, and she recognized me from my picture in the paper after the James Sullivan matter back in June. There was a bill from the gas and light company, which I knew would immediately erase the contents of the check.
And there was the summons for jury duty, the name Alex Bourque typed across the top. I grimaced upon sight of the white and blue postcard.
“Oh hell,” I said again, tossing the rest of the mail on my desk and parking my butt in my captain’s chair. I kept the summons in my hand and I rubbed my chin. The remnants of my shaving from yesterday lingered.
I had registered to vote right on my 18th birthday, one of the few in my class who took care of that so early. I’ve voted in every election over the past four years, and I had planned to vote this November. And I had heard that the Commonwealth, in its infinite wisdom, likes to call freshly-registered voters to jury duty within a year of their 18th birthday. For some reason, the Commonwealth forgot about me—until now.
I’ve received summonses before now, although it was usually a Worcester County deputy sheriff or a constable who served me for this case or another. It was alright, because that was a part of the whole private investigator thing and part of the game. I had my witness fee to collect. I wouldn’t get paid for jury duty.
I opened the folded postcard and looked at the information. I groaned when I found out where I had to fulfill my service to the Commonwealth.
My office is located on the corner of Wallace Avenue and Main Street in my hometown of Fitchburg, Massachusetts. The Fitchburg District Court—which, in a bit of irony, started life well over a century ago as a post office—is located only a block to the north. It would have been easy for me: head to the office at 8 a.m., have a cup of coffee as I read the paper, then walk two minutes to the courthouse. I’ve made that trek pretty much every day.
Where did they send me? Not Leominster, and not Gardner, either.
They had sent me to Clinton.
I don’t have anything against Clinton, Massachusetts. Clinton is famed for The Strand movie theater, The Old Timer restaurant, as well as more bars than street corners in any town in north central Mass. Fitchburg High only plays the Clinton High Gaels during the basketball season, so there wasn’t much a rivalry there—and we usually kick their ass, but that’s not really the point. Here’s what really sucked about this assignment: The fact I would have to wake up at like 6 to get ready for that instead of 7, then battle my way onto Route 2 East, 190 South and Route 117 East before meandering through Clinton on Route 70 to get to the Wachusett Reservoir… it just didn’t make sense to me. Nothing big ever happened in the towns under the Clinton District Court’s jurisdiction to begin with, so to say I was left scratching my head was something of an understatement. I grimaced as I looked out the window toward Monument Park.
Summer was on its last legs here in Massachusetts, Labor Day only a few weeks past. The trees had already started their annual morph toward the skeleton phase. The temperature had already made its abrupt change, and soon we’d be exchanging summer shorts for long pants and jackets. There was still modest sunshine, even though the days had grown shorter.
I looked at the summons again: the Commonwealth wanted me to serve just before Columbus Day weekend, which according to them would give me three weeks to alert my employer of my civic obligation.
I snorted. Consider my employer notified.
I stood up and brought my summons with me. I locked my office, walked down the stairs and hopped into my Escort. With the jury duty summons on my passenger seat, I drove off toward Lauryn’s apartment at good ol’ State U.
I tried not to think about my pending date with the Massachusetts criminal court system and instead thought about my date with Lauryn. This would be our second Revs match this season: the last time we were at Gillette, New England had knocked off Colorado, 2-1. Since then, the Revs had slumped and hadn’t won a match in nearly two months. Lauryn and I hoped to break the skid with our attendance tonight, though I doubted it would be that way. We were playing New York, and the Red Bulls weren’t the perennial doormats in Major League Soccer any longer. I was looking forward to the match.
A few minutes later, I forgot about the game as Lauryn stepped out of her apartment. She glided to the car, as if hovering several inches off the sidewalk. Lauryn wore a navy blue Revs hoodie that hugged her upper body just right, her strawberry blonde hair splayed over her shoulders. Her jeans fit just right, too.
Within seconds, my jeans, loose as they were, started fitting a little snug.
She slid into my ride and leaned over with a wide smile. She kissed me with those soft lips of hers, sliding her hand up to caress my cheek. Her fingertips felt soft too. I could smell a hint of raspberries wafting to my nostrils.
“Hey baby,” she said, breaking away. “How was your day?”
“It just got better.” I leaned in for another kiss. She leaned my way and pressed her lips against mine.
Lauryn sniffed a laugh.
“I bet it did.”
“Check under your ass,” I said. “My day has been topsy-turvy, and that kind of brought it to a low level. Your kisses and presence here lifted it.”
Lauryn reached under her pert rear end and pulled out the jury notification just as I pulled away, making a three-point turn before heading to Pearl Street. I turned left and followed it to John Fitch Highway, which would lead me, after a few turns onto Bemis Road, Wanoosnoc Road and Walton Street, to Route 2 East, 495 South and Route 1 North, to Foxboro.
“Oh boy,” she said. “When do you have to go to court?”
She did. Her eyes widened almost immediately. She had already served on a jury, so I knew she could find the location of my service easily enough.
“Clinton?” she said with a bit of wondering in her tone.
I nodded again.
“Who did you piss off to get sent there?”
I couldn’t help but grin. Off we drove, intent on putting jury duty out of my mind for the foreseeable future, and hoping for a solid win in the football.