Chapter 11

Coming clean should have felt better than this.

The weight of Fuller's stare fell on Judy like a ton of bricks. She squared her shoulders and carried the burden. But she didn't carry it alone. Tom sat still as a statue in the chair beside her. She resisted the temptation to look at him. Seeking comfort from her partner in front of their captain would only make what they'd written on their report worse.

The paper rattled again as Fuller looked over the report to visually assess his officers. His face resembled a hard, unyielding mask. Finally, he lowered the document to his desk and leaned back. White-hot pinpricks trickled up Judy's spine. The captain's calm demeanor was deceptive. He was like a storm on the brink of unleashing his turmoil. She knew better than to relax prematurely.

"So, you think Owen and Dirk are connected to someone higher?"

Tom exhaled a low breath. "Yes, captain. They invited me to watch the game tonight. Dirk seemed to be feeling me out. Owen said maybe I could win back what I lost."

"How are you on cash?" Fuller asked.

"I didn't lose it all, but I think the kids were impressed with how much I had."

"I'll get you some more." Fuller scratched a note on pad near his phone. "Keep track of it. You'll be accountable when the case is over."

Tom nodded. "Of course, captain."

Fuller looked at Judy. "Were you invited, too?"

"Trish didn't mention it."

The captain's mouth twitched. "Trish. She orchestrated the spin the bottle game."

"Yes," Judy said. "She's a control freak who wants to play matchmaker."

"You and Hanson were alone in her father's study."

Judy remained quiet and so did Tom. The room thickened with tension. Judy gave up trying to maintain. Her shoulders drooped as she slumped back against her chair.

"Neither report goes into specifics about what happened except that Owen interrupted you." Fuller pressed his fingers together into a steeple. His gaze locked on both of them. "Officers, I won't insult any of us by asking what happened, but I am hoping I can trust your judgment. Jump Street is still a program in its infancy. There are several members on the city council would think this program is a waste of time and money. They believe we're entrapping and misleading their children. Don't do anything to compromise what we've all worked hard to accomplish."

"We wouldn't, Captain," Hanson said.

"Maybe not intentionally. Everything you do on a case must be above reproach. I won't even mention the personal ramifications of becoming involved with a fellow officer. Trust me, I know this from personal experience."

Judy felt her eyes drawn to Tom. When she looked at him, she found him already watching her. Fuller dismissed them and they parted in the squad room. Judy stopped at Doug's desk. He was doing background on a case so she left him a note to call her. Then, she headed to the mall to hook up with Trish and some other girls from school.

---

Fuller's warning hit Tom in his chest like a sack of bricks. Rumors flew about the Captain's time in New York. Some said he had an affair with a younger officer, which cost him his marriage. Tom never took stock in gossip, but maybe this time there was some truth in their guesses. Regardless, Tom knew that he couldn't keep pretending.

He headed to his desk with a cup of steaming coffee. As he sipped the strong brew, he watched Judy. She worked hard to ignore him. That wasn't his ego standing up for attention. He remembered how things were before they slept together. With their desks a paper wad toss away, he became familiar with her habits. They used to go on snack runs for and with each other, talk about sports and argue over music. All of that came to a gradual stop the morning after they made love. Now, he felt guilty if she caught him looking at her. Things were never be the same between them, but he never imagined they'd be this strained.

Owen called and confirmed their plans to watch the game together. It was strictly a boys' night so Tom and Judy were free from pretending to be what they weren't and what they couldn't be.

---

An afternoon hanging out with boy-crazy girls reminded Judy of how far she'd come. She remembered giggling over the hot guys and planning with her friends. How would they get Derrick Jones to notice them? Would Jeremy Miller ask one of them to the prom? It was an endless cycle and some level it was fun. Pretending to be a kid had its pluses. Especially when the grown-up Judy had a serious dilemma.

After showering and changing into her favorite t-shirt and boxers, Judy curled onto her lazy boy recliner. From the corner of her eye, the telephone seemed to glow. Maybe it was her guilty conscience bogging her down. Since leaving the note for Doug, he hadn't been far from her thoughts. She desperately needed to come clean with him. Even if nothing more ever happened between her and Tom, Doug deserved the truth in knowing that her heart was no longer in it. Maybe it never had been.

A rerun of "Spenser: For Hire" failed to capture her interest. She turned the sound down and reached for the phone. A split second later, a knock sounded at her door.

"Judy, it's Doug. Are you there?"

Just like that, her heart started pounding. She pressed a hand to her chest. Becoming a basket of nerves wasn't her usual MO. She had to get it together.

"Judy?"

"I'm coming!" She returned the phone to the end table, stood and headed to the door. Willing herself to relax, she counted to ten and methodically smoothed her wispy curls into a ponytail. Once her heart rate returned to something akin to normal, she opened the door.

"Hey, Doug."

He gave her soft, wary smile. "Hi, Jude. I got your note." He held up the slip of paper before shoving it back into his front jeans pocket. "I came over as soon as I left Jump Street."

An awkward silence kept them still until Judy realized they hadn't moved. She stood aside and opened the door wider. "Come in." As he crossed the threshold, she added, "You're working late."

"Fuller had us looking into that Dirk guy. He's a wild card."

She nodded. "Yeah, you can see it in his eyes."

"His folks filed bankruptcy his senior year of college. They haven't been able to reclaim the cash flow. Dirk seems to have taken this hard."

"That could work for us in the case."

Doug plopped onto the sofa. "But we're not talking about the case."

"Huh?"

"Your note...it wasn't about the case. At least, it didn't read like it was. You wanted to talk about you and me. Right?"

She should have been prepared for his direct approach. Her nerves rattled and hummed, making the words lodge in her throat.

"Judy?" He tilted his head to the side and gazed at her with his puppy dog brown eyes. "Just say it. Whatever's on your mind. I can handle it. I've been dumped before."

"No, this isn't about dumping you."

"We're not okay." He looked away. "We don't feel okay. I know it's weird because we're both cops and Fuller would go ape shit if he knew..." He ruffled his hair with a sweep of his hand. "Something changed somehow."

Her heart filled with sadness. She sat on the coffee table across from him. "Yeah...somehow. I care about you, Doug."

He gave her a faint smile. "This is when it comes."

"It's not working," she said before her courage failed her. "Our friendship means the world to me. I'm afraid we may lose even that. I don't want to hurt you."

"Usually I get the girl to break up with me and I walk away relieved that it's over," he confessed. "It's a little different this time."

He bent forward and pressed a light kiss to her cheek.

"I'm sorry," she murmured.

"Me, too."

---

After redeeming himself with a huge gambling win, Tom made plans to get with the guys for another poker game. Dirk made a quick getaway. Tom tried to follow, but the traffic lights worked against him. He cut through side streets and returned to the chapel.

The headquarters were empty. Even Blowfish had found something better to do on a Saturday night. Tom trudged toward his desk, pausing for a moment at Judy's. A funky purple and rock vase filled with a colorful arrangement of flowers claimed one corner. The corner had a few framed postcards. Her work was stacked in a neat pile at the center. Her pencils were sharpened and her pens were all in place. Judy Hoffs was one organized woman. The corners of his mouth lifted in a half smile.

He made the few steps to his corner of Jump Street. He was starting on a detailed summary of the night's happenings when the telephone rang.

"Jump Street," he said into the receiver.

"Tom?"

A ton of bricks seemed to settle on his chest at the sound of his girlfriend's voice. "Hi, Amy."

"You're working late for a Saturday." Her tone all but accused him of nefarious deeds. Or was it his conscience?

"Yeah, did you get my message?"

"I did," she said. "I was hoping to catch you anyway. Are you really busy? I'd like to see you tonight."

"I'm working on a report for Fuller..."

"Will it take you long to finish? I haven't seen you in days. I miss you."

"This case is keeping me pretty busy." He hated that he couldn't return the sentiment, but he hadn't missed her. Twelve weeks they'd been together. That had been eleven weeks too long.

"Well then you deserve a break. We could get something to eat...maybe rent a movie and just relax."

Relax. They hadn't relaxed—had sex—for awhile. Every time he got close to her, his thoughts turned to Judy, and he couldn't help comparing the two women. In many ways, Amy fell short. She was a nice person, generous and giving. But she lacked fire and passion. Maybe he just wasn't the man for her.

"Okay." He glanced at his watch. "I'll pick you up in an hour."

"Great! I'll see you then."

The hour came too quickly for Tom's peace of mind. He parked in front of her apartment building and just sat. The energy to climb the steps and ring her bell vanished. He dreaded the thought of hurting her, but the time to come clean had arrived. Ignoring it just made him a coward. Amy needed to know that their relationship wasn't going anywhere. His heart would never belong to her.

A light rap sounded at his window. His body jerked at the sudden noise.

"Tom, how long have you been here?"

He fumbled with opening the door and joining her on the street. "I don't know. Not long."

"I looked out the window and there you were." She headed to the passenger door. He opened it and she slid inside.

He reclaimed his spot behind the steering wheel, secured his seatbelt and started the engine. "Where to?"

"I was thinking we could try that Thai place on Seventh Avenue."

He cringed. "Thai?"

"Yeah. I thought you liked Thai."

"Not really."

"Okay," she said, sounding annoyed. "What about Knick's?"

"I busted his son last spring."

"So that's out." Her fingers drummed a nervous beat on the back of her purse. "I know what you'll never turn down. Hot dogs, sauerkraut and chips. I don't have that at my place, do you?"

"No, but there's a Seven-Eleven at the next corner." Tom's stomach growled in anticipation. He parked the Mustang near the door. As soon as they entered the store, they wandered off in two different directions.

He grabbed the hot dogs, buns and sauerkraut. Amy headed down the chips aisle. As he moved around the store, he thought about what lay ahead. Should he tell her before they ate or after? Did she already suspect that things weren't working out? Judy said that Amy already had suspicions. Could this work in his favor? Maybe she wouldn't take the break-up hard. The last thing he wanted was her sobbing on his shoulder. He doubted that a friendship would result in this, but he didn't want hard feelings between them.

He reached the counter and laid everything down. Seconds later, a guy came up behind him. The man was tall and wild-eyed. Tom's cop instinct kicked into high gear. He moved his hand toward his shoulder holster but he was too late. The guy aimed a gun at the cashier and Tom.

"Everything in the register. NOW!"

Ice-cold fear gripped Tom. Where was Amy? He glanced in the overhead security mirror. She was coming toward them. She cradled chips, beer and ketchup in her arms, but the ketchup started slipping. He opened his mouth to stop her, but nothing came out.

The bottle fell from her grasp and she called out his name. "Tom!"

The robber turned and fired. The blast threw Amy into the Hostess display rack and onto the floor. Twinkies and Ding Dongs propelled through the air.

"Amy!"

In a flash of movement, Tom ran to her. Behind him, he heard the robber running out the store. The cashier loomed over Tom.

"Don't just stand there!" Tom bellowed, applying pressure to the gaping wound in her chest. "Call 9-1-1! Do it!"

The store employee's footsteps hurried away. His frantic call sounded muffled in Tom's head. Blood seemed to fill his ears as he stared down at Amy. All the color drained from her skin. Her breathing became shallow. Her blood pooled around them, soaking the tile floor and his jeans. But he didn't care about that. With tears filling his eyes, he knelt silently as she locked eyes on him and exhaled her last breath.

[A/N: Some of this chapter was inspired by the season two episode, "Orpheus 3.3."]

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