When her part-time reporting gig gives Lucy the opportunity
to attend a Boston newspaper conference, she looks forward
to the vacation from domestic bliss. But upon leaving
Tinker’s Cove, she quickly discovers that alone time can be
kind of…lonely. And in between libel workshops and panel
discussions, Lucy takes a guilt trip. She feels terrible
that she won’t be home to help her husband celebrate
But when Luther Read—head of a nearly bankrupt newspaper
dynasty—suddenly drops dead, Lucy has other things to think
about. Murder, for instance. She’s not buying the theory
that Luther died of an asthma attack. The man just had too
many enemies. Always the intrepid snoop, Lucy vows to
investigate. But she can’t help wondering if her name will
end up on a byline—or in an obit…
"Wouldn't you like to kill him when he does that?" Phyllis
was referring to her boss, Ted Stillings, editor-in-chief
and publisher of the weekly Tinker's Cove Pennysaver, who
had just announced his arrival in the office by throwing
his head back, pounding his chest, and yelling like
Tarzan. Behind him the little bell on the door jangled
merrily, and dust motes danced in the stripes of afternoon
sunlight that streamed through the old-fashioned brown-
wood Venetian blinds covering the plate-glass windows.
"Only if I can torture him first," replied Lucy Stone, the
paper's investigative reporter, feature writer, listings
editor, and photographer. "Quick, pass me the handcuffs
and the duct tape."
Phyllis, whose various job descriptions included
receptionist, telephone operator, and advertising manager,
smoothed her pink beaded cardigan over her ample bust and
began searching in her desk drawer.
"Darn. I must have loaned them to somebody," she said,
shaking her head. Not a single tangerine lock escaped from
the hair spray she'd liberally applied that morning.
"Enough with the sarcasm," admonished Ted. "I've got big
"Uh-oh," said Phyllis in a resigned tone. "That probably
means more work for us."
"Not today it doesn't," insisted Lucy, who as the mother
of four had learned early on the importance of setting
limits. "I have to get Zoe to ballet, and Sara has
horseback riding. I absolutely, positively have to leave
at three. Not a minute later."
"Will you two shut up?" demanded Ted. "I have an
announcement to make."
Phyllis rolled her eyes. "So what's the problem? Cat got
your tongue? Spit it out."
"We're waiting," said Lucy, drumming her fingers
impatiently on her computer keyboard.
"I get no respect here," fumed Ted. "I might as well be
He sat down at the antique rolltop desk he'd inherited
from his grandfather, a legendary New England newspaper
editor, and put his head in his hands.
"This is the biggest thing to happen to the Pennysaver
since ... well, I don't know when, and nobody's
interested. Nobody cares."
"We care," chorused Lucy and Phyllis.
"Please, pretty please," cajoled Lucy. "Please tell us."
Ted lifted his head.
"Only if you're really interested."
"We're really interested," said Phyllis with a big sigh.
"You don't sound interested." Ted was pouting.
Lucy checked her watch. "I don't have all day, Ted," she
"Okay." Ted straightened up. "Drumroll, please."
Lucy tapped two pencils against the edge of her scarred
"Today," began Ted, making a little bow and displaying a
sheet of paper with an impressive engraved letterhead, "I
have the honor of informing you that the Tinker's Cove
Pennysaver has been named 'Community Newspaper of the Year
in Category Five, Circulation Less than Five Thousand' by
the Trask Trust for Journalism in the Public Interest."
"You've got to be kidding," said Phyllis, raising the
rhinestone-trimmed reading glasses that dangled from a
chain around her neck and holding her hand out for the
"Wow," said Lucy, honestly impressed. "Congratulations."
She knew how Ted had struggled through the years to keep
the Pennysaver, which had a lineage reaching back over a
hundred years to the yellowed and crumbling Couriers and
Advertisers in the morgue, a going concern. Only someone
with a genuine dedication and commitment to local news
would have continued to soldier on in such a difficult
economy against TV, the Internet, and numerous slick and
"It gets better," said Ted, passing the letter to
Phyllis. "The award includes a grant to attend the
Northeast Newspaper Association conference in Boston."
"It's true," said Phyllis, lowering her glasses. "Just my
luck, the conference is for editorial staff only." She
sucked in her heavily powdered cheeks and pursed her
Frosted Apricot lips. "I suppose that leaves me out."
"Sorry," said Ted, not bothering to sound too
sympathetic. "Someone has to watch the store. But Lucy, I
think you should definitely go. It's a great opportunity
to polish up your writing and reporting skills and to meet
other journalists. Opportunities like this don't come
along every day, you know."
Lucy knew. She couldn't remember the last time she'd left
the little Maine town. And she'd hardly ever left her
family for more than a day, and then only to give birth or
tend to her ailing parents.
"Where is it? And when is it?" she asked.
"Boston. The second week in June."
"Oh, I'd love to go to Boston," she admitted. "But June? I
can't get away in June. Elizabeth and Toby will be home
from college. Sara and Zoe will be finishing up the school
year. It would mean missing the middle school awards
ceremony and the ballet recital-"
"That's not what I call a problem," said Phyllis, cutting
her short. "I'd call it a gift from God."
In spite of herself, Lucy laughed, recalling long hours
spent perched on uncomfortable bleacher seats in the
stifling gymnasium watching an endless procession of
students receive awards for everything from perfect
attendance and positive attitudes to the Zeiger Prize for
"It means a lot to the kids," she said lamely.
"They have a father, don't they?" continued Phyllis. "He
"You're right," said Lucy. "Bill will go." She sighed.
"There's some problem with Bill?"
Phyllis was sharp; there was no denying it, thought Lucy.
"It's just that ... well, you know Toby is going to be
working for his father when he gets home from college."
Bill Stone, Lucy's restoration carpenter husband, was
still recovering from a nasty fall. It had been decided
that Toby, who was struggling in college, would take a
year off from his studies and assist him on the job.
"Well, I don't have a good feeling about it," said Lucy,
voicing a thought that had been nagging her for some
time. "They're both pretty strong personalities."
"Both stubborn as hell, you mean," said Phyllis.
"I'm worried they might have a little trouble adjusting."
"Probably fight like cats and dogs."
"Exactly. But if I'm there I can be a buffer, smooth
"Honey, you can just forget that idea," said Phyllis,
fixing her with a level gaze. "They'll work things out a
lot faster if you're not there."
"I was hoping to keep it in the family and out of the
courtroom," said Lucy darkly. "And then there's
Phyllis cocked her head expectantly.
"Well, you know she didn't much like working as a
chambermaid at the Queen Vic Inn last summer? I've got to
help her find a new summer job."
"You mean make sure she gets a summer job."
Phyllis shrugged. "No work, no spending money, it's that
"I wish I had your confidence," said Lucy, staring at the
calendar photo of scullers on the Charles River, with the
Boston skyline in the background. Flipping through the
pages she saw a shot of the swan boats in the Public
Garden, street musicians performing in Copley Square, and
a nighttime photo that transformed Storrow Drive into
swirling ribbons of red and white light.
"How would I get there? I've never driven in the city.
Besides, Elizabeth will need my car to get to the summer
job she doesn't have yet."
"Go with Ted," suggested Phyllis.
"No can do," said Ted, looking up from his computer. "Pam
and I are going a few days early, kind of a minivacation."
"Take the commuter jet." Lucy considered this. "That's a
good idea, but I bet it's awfully expensive."
"All your expenses will be paid," snapped Phyllis. "Right,
"Well, within reason. Workshops, registration, lodging,
meals, transportation." He paused. "No jets. Bus."
"Bus?" Lucy hadn't traveled by bus since she was in
"Sure. There's two or three every day. And the bus, unlike
the plane, takes you right into town. To South Station."
Lucy studied the June calendar photo of a narrow street on
Beacon Hill lined with rosy pink town houses. She wanted
to walk down that street, perhaps the very same street
where Paul Revere or Louisa May Alcott or Robert Lowell
had walked. She flipped a page, revealing a photo of the
fashionable boutiques and outdoor cafes on Newbury Street.
In the foreground, a fashionably dressed couple were
strolling arm in arm. She was suddenly uncomfortably aware
of the blue jeans and polo shirt she was wearing, her
usual outfit for work.
"I have nothing to wear," she wailed.
Phyllis raised an eyebrow. "Girlfriend, then you better
get off your fanny and go shopping."
"You win," said Lucy, laughing. "I'll go!"
That night at dinner Lucy could hardly wait to share the
"Guess what?" she began as she unfolded her napkin. "Ted
wants me to go to a newspaper convention in Boston. All
"Boston?" Zoe, seven years old and in second grade, was
suspicious. "How long will you be gone?"
"How come we don't get to go?" demanded Sara, who had just
turned fourteen and had a permanent chip on her shoulder.
"Exactly when is this shinding?" inquired Bill, scooping
mashed potatoes out of the bowl and piling them on his
"It's a week long, the second week in June, and Elizabeth
will be home then so she can help out."
"Elizabeth never does anything," complained Sara, pretty
much hitting the nail on the head. A year at Chamberlain
College in Boston had done little except convince
Elizabeth that she was disadvantaged because her parents
had refused to fund a trip to Cancun for spring break and
had insisted she come home to look for a summer job. A
search that had been far too halfhearted to be successful.
"A whole week?" Zoe scowled, pushing her peas around on
Lucy was beginning to think the convention wasn't a very
good idea as she watched Bill consult his pocket calendar.
"Do you know what this means?" he asked, tapping the
Suddenly Lucy knew exactly what it meant. An entire week
without household responsibilities. No loads of laundry,
no suppers to cook, no family crises. No complaints and no
reproaches. No explanations. A week with no one to answer
to but herself. Freedom.
"What's the problem?" she demanded. "I'll only be away for
five nights, five weekday nights. The kids aren't babies
anymore; they'll all help out. You go away, to restoration
carpenter's workshops and antique house conferences and
buying trips and I don't know what all...."
"It's the week before Father's Day."
This was news to Lucy.
"I bet you never even thought to check."
Lucy looked at the wilted lettuce leaf remaining on her
"They call it Father's Day, but this year I guess it will
This was a favorite complaint of Bill's, who always feared
he would be "passed over" and ignored on birthdays and
"I hadn't realized," admitted Lucy. "But Father's Day is
always on Sunday, and I'll be home Friday or Saturday at
the latest. It will be the same as always. Even better.
The best Father's Day ever."
"I promise," said Lucy.
Maybe going to the newspaper convention wasn't such a good
idea after all, thought Lucy, carefully folding her best
dress and tucking it in her suitcase. It was a flowery-
print silk sheath that she'd bought at Carriage Trade's
end-of-season sale last August. It was perfect for an
occasional summer theater show or cocktail party, the sort
of event she was likely to attend in Tinker's Cove, but
she wasn't convinced it would do in Boston. It screamed
summer resort wear rather than urban sophistication.
Too bad, she told herself firmly; it would have to do.
According to the schedule Ted had given her, there would
be only one dress-up occasion at the conference: the
awards banquet. She was certainly not going to buy a new
outfit for one event, especially when she had a perfectly
good dress in her closet. A lovely dress. A designer
dress. A dress splashed with gaudy pink and fuchsia and
Lucy gave her hair a good brushing, studying herself in
the mirror. She saw an average sort of person-average
height, average weight, not as young as she used to be and
not as old as she hoped to be-someday. Her shining cap of
dark hair was her best feature, she thought, mostly
because she didn't have to do much with it. She got it cut
once a month, rinsed in some hair color now and then to
cover the gray that had begun to appear, and that was it.
Lucy gave her reflection one last look and decided she
looked presentable, dressed for comfort on the bus in
jeans and an oversize white shirt. She slipped the brush
into the suitcase and was zipping it up when she heard a
thunderous crash outside.
Involuntarily, her stomach clenched. What now? she
wondered, as she ran to the window to see what had
happened. At first nothing seemed different, only that the
backyard looked rather empty. Then she realized that the
toolshed, which had been covered with climbing rambler
roses, had somehow collapsed. The roses were still there,
still in bloom, but not as high as they used to be.
Bill and Toby were standing in almost identical positions,
arms akimbo, examining the damage. Kudo, the dog, was
running in circles and barking furiously.
"Shut up!" yelled Bill, advancing at the dog.
Kudo gave a protesting yelp or two, then scooted off in
search of safer ground. Toby was thinking of following him-
Lucy could tell by a slight shift in his weight and a
definite angle toward the house-but Bill had him in his
sights. She'd better get down there fast, she decided,
before things got nasty.
Bill had already worked up a good head of steam when she
stepped out onto the back porch.
"Why'd you say it was all set when it wasn't?" he yelled
Toby shook his head, shrugged his shoulders, and held out
his hands. "I thought it was set."
"How could you think that? There was nothing to hold it up
once I took out the corner post. How stupid can you be?
Did you think the air would hold it up? Did you think
Newton's laws have been repealed? Dr. Gravity took the day
Toby's face was red, and Lucy knew he was struggling to
keep his temper.
"I didn't understand," he said, shaking his head. "I
thought you'd done something. I thought you had it under
It sounded reasonable enough to Lucy. Kids expected their
parents to take care of things for them. There was a roof
over their heads, dinner on the table, clean clothes in
the drawers. Dentists' appointments got made; all they had
to do was show up and open wide. That dynamic had changed,
of course, when Toby started working for his father. Now
he was supposed to earn his keep.
"No!" barked Bill, pointing a finger at him. "That was
Copyright © 2003 Leslie Meier
Our Past Week of Fresh Picks