"I don't know what the big deal is." Doug followed Tom to his desk. Jump Street vibrated with the usual hum of police activity. "You've done cases like this before. They're slam dunk...a ball soaring out of the park...a puck in the net--"
"Doug, please. Can the sport analogies." Tom slammed a stack of files onto his desk. Thoughts of Judy were never far from his mind. How had they let things get this far? He should have asked her out the first day they met. They had a blast acting like teenagers. She made him feel carefree yet completely together. Something, he hadn't really felt since his dad died.
Penhall plopped onto the edge of Tom's desk. Continuing at a rapid pace, he was totally oblivious to Tom's turmoil. "You know Judy is freaking about this case, too. That's not like her, you know. She's usually so calm and together. Not to mention amazingly hot."
Doug twisted his body and looked at Tom. A frown darkened his boy-like features. "What? You don't think she's a babe?"
"She wouldn't appreciate us talking about her like this." Tom's mouth clenched. "Actually, I don't care for it much either."
"You've talked about Amy."
Another sharp blade of guilt stabbed his chest. "Not like this," he denied.
"By the way, how are things with you two? That double date thing hit a weird vibe." Doug grabbed a paperweight and began tossing it from one hand to the other. "Judy kinda shut down after it. I'm thinking I should have kept it just the two of us. We're in that transitional stage. You know, from co-worker to friend to something more. She's probably afraid the department will separate the team. I've tried talking to her, but she--"
"Doug." Tom fought a war with irritation and won. "Look, I'm probably not the person you should talk about this with."
A strange look flickered across Doug's face. "You're my best friend. There's no one else who knows both of us except Harry, and between you and me, I think he has the hots for her, too."
Guilt returned at an alarming rate, shooting straight through Tom. He bolted from his chair and glanced at his watch. "Look, the party's starting soon. I need to change and all that other stuff."
"Yeah, what was I thinking? Dumping this stuff on you right before the big sting." Doug stood. "Fuller and Harry are waiting on standby with the uniforms tonight. I'm not on the schedule, but I may come by just in case. Sometimes, cards aren't just fun and games. If something happened to Judy and I wasn't there..."
"You really care about her, don't you?" The question came out before Tom could process the repercussions. This was dangerous territory. And he honestly didn't want to know the answer. "Forget I asked. That was too personal."
"I don't mind." Doug shrugged, a lopsided grin forming on his face. "Besides the looks and the brains, she's good people. I care about her. I think we could be good together. What do you think?"
"I don't know," Tom answered, hating being caught like this. "She's great. A guy couldn't go wrong with a woman like her."
Doug smiled. "My thoughts exactly."
"Hey, Dad." Judy cradled the telephone against her ear. Using the phone in Trish's kitchen afforded her little privacy. The other girls kept coming back and forth, getting the food and drinks set up for the party. Judy had to divide her attention. Maintaining a neutral expression while tension crackled on the telephone wire was a hard task. She sensed the grimace on Fuller's face long before she heard it in his voice.
"Don't 'hey, dad' me!" Fuller barked. "It's about time you called. If Hanson hadn't reported in hours ago, I wouldn't have known about your situation. What do you have to say for yourself?"
"I'm hanging out at Trish's tonight. We're gonna study for our chem quiz and maybe watch Growing Pains. Tell Mom I won't be home for dinner."
"Oh, so she's in the room, listening?"
"Sure thing, Dad. That's it exactly."
"Have you been made?" Concern took the bite out of his bark. "Say the word and we'll be there now."
"No, everything will be fine. Her parents are really cool. We're determined to ace that quiz tomorrow--"
"Judy!" Trish said in a harsh whisper. "Don't lay it on so thick. There's no way we're passing that test tomorrow."
Judy mouthed an apology and waited for Trish to leave the room again. "So I'll probably be home later tonight...but not too late."
"Hanson will be there soon. The rest of us will be on standby. Be careful."
The call ended. To Judy's surprise Trish lingered in the doorway. The other girl sadly shook her head. Judy frowned. "What?"
"You should have told him you're spending the night."
"But I thought you and Owen planned some alone time for after."
Trish laughed. "You are too much. The sleepover would give you and Tom some serious getting to know you time."
We already do, Judy thought, all too well. "That's why you invited him to the party."
"Actually, I wasn't just looking out for you when I invited him." Trish sauntered to the counter and lounged on a stool. "Have you ever noticed the wad of bills he carries around? That kid is loaded and doesn’t have a clue what to do with it. Other than spending it on a cool chick like you, he can also try to double it or even triple it."
The girl shrugged and smiled. "You'll see."
They spent the next thirty minutes raiding Trish's closet for something hot to wear. Groans lodged in Judy's throat as she fielded the matchmaking girl's fashion advice, which leaned toward too tight, too revealing or both. Finally, they agreed on a acid washed mini-skirt and a hot pink tank top. The white ankle boots Judy wore to school complemented the ensemble. After crimping their hair and reapplying their make-up, they were ready to attack the night's music selection.
The ringing doorbell ended their argument over who was a hotter: Terrence Trent D'arby or Prince. As they waited for Trish to return, Judy mingled with the other girls. She knew a few from school. A couple looked older and Judy wondered if the gambling ring extended beyond high school and included college, too. If so, tonight's sting might be premature. She wondered how to best warn Fuller about her suspicions. She was moving closer to the telephone when Trish returned with Tom.
"Look who's here. Our first guy! I wonder why he's so eager," Trish joked. She gave Judy a broad wink and beckoned her to come closer. "Stop playing hard to get."
That kid didn't know the half of it. Judy felt her face grow hot and hoped a mask hid her true reaction. Damn, Tom looked great! A gold hoop dangled from his left ear lobe. A button down white shirt contrasted perfectly against his olive-toned skin. And his faded blue jeans molded against his lean thighs and legs like a second skin. Feeling his eyes on her, she quickly ended her lengthy perusal. The wicked gleam in his brown orbs made her flesh tingle. Oh, boy.