The insistent ringing of the telephone startled Judy awake. The top sheet tangled around her torso in an uncomfortable disarray. She almost fell from the bed as she worked to disengage her limbs and answer the phone at the same time. A few choice curse words came from her mouth as her hand closed around the bedside phone.
"Yeah?" she barked, more irritated with herself and the restlessness she'd endured.
"Jude." The hoarse voice choked on the whisper. "I need to see you... I need you."
A shock of alarm zipped down her spine. She swung her legs over the side of the bed. One hand gripped the phone while the other rubbed the sleep from her eyes. "Who is this? Tom? What time is it?"
"I don't know," he said, sounding strange and distant. "It's late. It doesn't matter."
"It matters to me. We have work in the morning. If you're calling about that scene at Trish's place—"
"Amy's dead, Jude. He shot her. Right in front of my face. The sonuvabitch just pulled the trigger. I could have stopped it...I should have—"
"Hanson!" She spoke sharply to get his attention. His tone and words scared her. If he did something stupid—she refused to finish the thought. "Stop talking and listen to me. Where are you?"
"I'm at the midtown station. The paramedics were too late, Judy. She took her last breath right in front of my face."
He sounded so stunned. Almost like a lost child. She could only imagine how he felt. The empty uselessness... She wanted to be with him. Whether she actually admitted it or not, the fact remained that she craved him. But not at the expense of his girlfriend's life. Not like this. Never like this.
Sudden tears stung her eyes. She blinked them away and stood. The sheet floated to the floor in a heap. Her pajamas followed. As she found something decent to wear, she said, "Stay there. I'm coming."
"I mean it, Tom. Don't you dare leave. I'll be there soon."
A sob lodged in her throat. She swallowed it down and blinked away more tears. "I promise."
She found Tom sitting alone in the hallway. The midnight hour had come and gone. In the early hours before dawn, the precinct failed to throb with the usual buzz of a police station. Judy flashed her badge at the night desk clerk and rushed to Tom's side. Blood stained his shirt and pants. She forced her eyes to lock onto his eyes. From the stunned look on his face, she doubted if he knew the state of his clothes. The last thing he needed was a reminder from her.
Squatting in front of him, she rested her hands on the seat of his bench. "Hi, Tom."
"You kept your promise."
She nodded. "Yeah. Let's go."
He allowed her to take his hand and guide him to her Jeep. As she unlocked his door, he said, "I think they towed my car."
"I'll find out in the morning."
"You don't have to."
"I want to." She waited for him to sit and then closed his door. He reached across and unlocked hers. She slid inside and said, "Thanks."
She hesitated before starting the engine. This was foreign territory. His grief was strong. What did she say? Was coming the right thing? But God help her, she couldn't imagine not being there for him. He told her he needed her. How could she walk away from that?
"Where are we going?" he asked.
"I thought I'd take you home."
At first, she thought he was worst than he appeared. Then, she realized what he meant. Her place or his? Maybe he didn't want to go home, but he couldn't come to her place like that. Not with Amy's blood still covering him.
He shook his head so vigorously that his hair flopped into his eyes. "No."
"To grab some clothes and whatever else you need," she explained. "Give me the key and I'll go in."
"Okay." He pulled his key from the front pocket of his jeans. She held out her hand and he slid the key onto her palm and didn't let go. "Then where?"
"Do you want to come home with me?"
He nodded once. "Yeah."
Hot water sprayed from the shower, covering Tom from head to toe. He lowered his head and watched as the water disappeared down the drain. A radio played in Judy's small bathroom. He recognized the melody, but the words escaped him. If he listened hard enough, he could hear her in the next room, rearranging the sofa into a bed. Making the sleeping arrangements abundantly clear. Setting boundaries.
He shivered despite the heat of the water. This was his third lather and rinse. After taking a long, hard look at his clothes, he needed a thorough cleanse. He'd never had anyone else's blood on him. Not anyone that he cared about.
Stop. Don't think.
A knock rapped at the door. "Tom?"
He turned off the shower and grabbed a towel. Considering she'd seen it all before, he didn't bother feigning modesty. He opened the door and met Judy's worried stare head on.
"You should be clean by now."
"I'm sorry. Did you want to use the shower?"
"No, I'm good. I was just..." She glanced past him to look into the foggy bathroom. "I was worried."
"My razor is still safely tucked away in my bag."
She fixed narrowed eyes on him. "That's not what I was getting at."
"I'm not handling this well."
She brushed wet hair from his cheek. The softness of her touch brought tears to his eyes. He turned away and began to dry off.
"I fixed the sofa for you. I wasn't sure if you wanted coffee."
The door creaked closed upon her exit.
Eventually, he left the solitude of the bathroom. In a t-shirt and boxers, he trudged through her darkened apartment to the living room. Just like he predicted, the sofa was transformed into a bed. Pillows, sheets and a comforter waited for him. He saw a shadow move and noticed that Judy waited for him, too.
He took the final steps to the sofa bed and sat on the edge, facing her. "You didn't have to wait up for me."
"I didn't know what else to do."
"You've been doing pretty well so far."
"Is there anyone you want me to call? Your mom? Penhall? The Captain?"
"The midtown station called Fuller. He offered to come pick me up..."
"I'm not mad that you called me," she said, reaching out to pat his hand. "I want to help. Tell me what to do. Do you want to talk about it?"
The words came pouring out. "He was robbing the store. I should have seen it coming. We shouldn't have been there."
"Don't blame yourself—"
"I planned to break up with her. You and I talked about coming clean and I was going to do that. Amy deserved—" He released a ragged breath. "If I just told her, we wouldn't have been there. The guy wouldn't have k-killed her."
The crack in her voice was his undoing. Guilt and regret tore through his defenses. Grief quickly followed. Sobs wracked through him. He covered his face with his hands. Before he knew it, Judy's arms were around him. Her tears mingled with his as she held him and promised him that he would make it through this.Back | Chapter 13 | 58