"Cheer up, Hanson." Judy slid onto the edge of his desk as if she belonged there. "We caught the bad guys. Our case is tight. Ned Daniels won't get to play the Pied Piper for a very long time."
The view of Judy's legs up close and personal made the blood pump faster inside his veins. He felt it rushing through various parts of his anatomy. The impulse to grab her hand and take them far away was never far from his mind. But something more pressing nagged at his impulses. He couldn't shake the feeling that their case wasn't over.
"Maybe not." He grimaced at his typewriter. His unfinished report flapped up and down under the whir of the overhead air vent. "Have you finished yours?"
"I put it on Fuller's desk ten minutes ago."
"Overachiever," he grumbled with a faint smile. "You're working hard for that gold shield."
"Aren't you?" She stood and peered over his shoulder.
"Jude," he murmured. "I don't think right when you do that."
"Sorry." The giggled that followed made him question her apology. She stepped back. "I'll leave you to your work."
"Thank you." After she moved away, he looked up. "I'll take you home when I'm done."
"Okay. I'll be around...hopefully not distracting...anyone." She smiled, waved and sashayed toward her desk.
Heat filled his cheeks, but he didn't care. Finally, they could accept the change in their relationship without worrying about the repercussions. Well, they hadn't exactly made an announcement to Jump Street. He imagined that happening in time. After the early stages of being in love became less fragile.
Without further distraction, he pecked through the report at twenty words per minute. His chest swelled with pride. His typing skills were improving. About thirty minutes later, his reports were neatly stacked and stapled. He dropped them off on Fuller's desk and went in search of Judy.
Doug's quiet comment stopped Tom in his tracks. He intended to find the right moment to talk to his fellow cop and closest friend. The last shreds of guilt kept him from making the moment happen. He gulped a deep breath of air for courage and forced a smile on his face.
"You and Hoffs make a good team."
Penhall shook his head. His face paled. A crooked smile lifted the corner of his mouth. "Don't. It's not like I'm walking around with sour grapes stuffed down my throat. She's a good girl. You're not that bad either. Be happy."
"You're taking this well."
"I've had time to think about it."
"Obviously," Tom said mostly to himself. "What does this mean for our friendship? Have I lost that?"
Doug looked away. "I don't know, yet."
"Geez, Hanson. That's what I didn't want. Your damned pity. You got the girl. You don't get to feel sorry for me, too."
"I didn't mean it that way," Tom said, but it was too late. Doug stormed past him without looking back.
- - -
"Hey, Jude, good job." Ioki added a smile to his compliment. "The IRS has been after Ned Daniels for years. They could never find a way to make the charges stick. It looks like you and Hanson got him."
"Thanks, Harry. Getting Daniels was really a stroke of good luck. We didn't know his connection to the case until the party."
He shrugged. "Even so, it's a bust that's got a lot of tongues wagging."
The pride from a good arrest deflated from her chest. Apprehension set her on edge. She stiffened, preparing herself for an attack on her personal life. "What's that supposed to mean?"
Ioki gave her a quizzical look. "Brass is impressed. Whenever the Feds take notice, City Hall puffs up." He nudged her shoulder. "What did you think I meant?"
She shook her head. "Nothing."
Judy rolled her eyes. "Okay, Ioki."
He raised his hands in mock defense. "You haven't been yourself in weeks. I didn't say anything because I didn't want the wrath of Hoffs coming down on me."
"I'm not that bad."
He gave her a pointed look that spoke volumes.
"Alright, maybe you have a point. It's nothing I can talk about right now."
"I'm not pushing."
"Thanks." She shrugged into her jacket and grabbed her purse. "If you see Hanson, can you tell him I'm going to Rocket Dog? Would you like something?"
Ioki rubbed his stomach. His face twisted with distaste. "Not this late. I can walk with you."
"I'm okay. It shouldn't take more than ten minutes there and back."
- - -
The run-in with Doug made Tom crave a fast getaway. He knew the damage to their friendship would be harsh, but he always hoped for the best. Maybe Doug cared about Judy more than Tom thought. Or maybe it went deeper than Judy. Somehow, Tom had to figure out how to fix it. But not tonight. Tonight, he and Judy deserved a private celebration for their outstanding teamwork.
He bypassed the coffeepot and turned toward the area that housed their desks. The empty loneliness of her space surprised him. Why wasn't she there waiting for him?
He turned at Ioki's call. "What?"
"I was pulling out the parking lot when I remembered. Judy went to Rocket Dog."
Tom glanced at his watch. "How long ago?"
"It was before Penhall helped me jump my car. That was at least fifteen or twenty minutes ago."
A sickening sensation settled in the pit of Tom's gut. "It's late. It shouldn't take her more than ten minutes. Why didn't you walk with her?"
"She told me not to," Ioki said. "Maybe they were out of buns and she waited."
Tom's gut clenched. "I don't think so. I'm going over there."
"I'm coming with you."
They were at the steps when Fuller shouted, "Hanson!"
"See what he wants," Ioki suggested. "I'll go get her."
The nagging sensation of unfinished business returned tenfold. The sound of gunfire blasted inside Tom's head. A second later, the image of Amy's lifeless body flashed before his eyes. For a moment, he couldn't move or speak.
"Go before he has a coronary." Harry gave him a hard shove. "Jude and I will be right back."
- - -
Judy stared at the butt of the gun just inches from her face. "You don't want to do this."
"It's your fault that I have to do this," Owen snapped. He tossed the string to Trish. "Tie her up. Do her ankles, too."
Judy's chest heaved with the exertion of taking deep, calming breaths. She'd been in a similar situation before. A perp took her on a joyride and she overpowered him. Of course, there had only been one person. This time, she had to plan on outsmarting both teenagers. Things could get hairy. Remaining calm and focused should preserve her life. She hoped.
"Just let me go," Judy said, looking at Trish. The girl's hand shook. Her eyes were bright with unshed tears. Judy continued to appeal to the girl. "We can pretend this never happened."
"Owen, baby," Trish said, "maybe..."
"No!" He wrapped both hands around the gun. The wild light in his eyes glittered dangerously. "It's too late."
"But she's a cop. We can get in a lot of trouble for this."
"Not if you let me go," Judy said. "Listen to me—"
"That's what got my uncle arrested!" Owen jerked on the rope in Trish's hands. "Listening to her and her cop boyfriend. She pretended to be your friend, Trish! Tie her up now or I'll do it myself."
Trish pulled the rope from Owen and moved to obey his demands. Judy watched the girl closely, but Trish refused to make eye contact. The ties were not tight enough to cut off Judy's circulation. With time and patience, they could be undone. Judy wondered how much time she had and what Owen's plans were.
"Now put the blindfold on," he said.
"I'm already tied up," Judy said. "I'm not going anywhere."
Trish didn't argue with him. She pulled a handkerchief from her pocket and wrapped it around Judy's eyes. The sudden darkness and feeling of helplessness made Judy sick to her stomach. This was not the way the night was supposed to end.
- - -
"How could they just release them?" Tom asked, running a hand through his hair. He tried to maintain an air of professionalism in front of Fuller, but inside, his thoughts ran rapid. Had Ioki found Judy? Was she okay? If she needed him, would he get to her in time?
"Owen and Trish's parents paid their bail. We couldn't hold them. Ned Daniels is still behind bars. His bail hearing isn't set until Monday," Fuller said. "Since Owen was a wildcat during the arrest, I wanted to give you a heads up to be on the lookout. I already left a message on Hoffs' answering machine."
Tom's heart skipped a beat. "She's not at home."
"She left about half an hour ago—"
"No. She was waiting for me. I'm taking her home."
"Where is she?" Fuller rose from his desk and reached for his gun. "When was the last time you saw her?"
They both rushed to the door. As Tom swung it open, he said, "Ioki said she went to Rocket Dog. He was the last to see her. I was on my way there when you called me to your office."
They made it half way across the room when Ioki ran back in. His flushed, worried face told Tom everything even before the other officer said a word.
"Judy's gone. Several witnesses say they saw her get into the car with two white teenagers, one male and the other female. They say she looked like she didn't want to go."
"What!" Tom shouted. "Did they try to help her?"
Ioki's jaw tightened as he looked away. "They said it happened too fast."
"That's bullshit." Tom's hands clenched at his sides. He'd like to grab every one of them and shake some sense into them. But even more than that, he wanted to hold Judy in his arms. A warm, lively Judy. "Which way did the car go?"
"It turned East on Wilshire." Ioki pulled a notepad from his shirt pocket. "I got the color, make and model. I'll get dispatch to get the word out. We'll find her."
"I'm not waiting for some street car to call back in with a report," Tom said. "I'm gone."
"I'm coming with you," Fuller added.