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Chapter 22

Mary nearly ran from the detention center to the court house. The route crossed a wooded area and the trail edged a small lake where migratory birds stopped to rest along their journey. It was a walk she usually welcomed as the scenery allowed her to decompress. But today, she stayed focused on getting to Kristin’s chambers.

After going through courthouse security, she took the steps two at a time, entering the wide doors of judicial reception. Ignoring the jurors on break and people waiting to see a judge, she scanned her ID card to open the secure entrance and hurried to the judge’s office.

“Mary, what’s going on?” Kristin asked. “You look like you’ve been running track in your work clothes.”

Mary plopped into the chair in front of Kristin’s modern Danish desk. She could feel the heat in her face and the perspiration that flattened her curls flat around her face. As she worked to catch her breath, she stared at the people on the closed circuit TV behind Kristin.

Mary told Kristin what Robby had told her he’d heard from Mikayla yesterday.

“You know,” Kristin said, “the more I learn from you about that boy, Robby, the more I think he has his head on straight. He did the right thing, telling you what he overheard.”

“I agree. The worst part is that I think Mikayla may leave the area. Given what happened on our ride along with Joseph, I can’t believe Germaine would keep Mikayla in St. Pete. He’s not that stupid. He knows the police will look for him. If they find him with Mikayla, he’s looking at significant prison time.”

“Only if they catch them in bed together,” Kristin worried, ’or she reports having sex with him. From what Robby overheard, she’s eager to be with him, which means she’ll keep her mouth shut and protect him. This is so frustrating. Without her help, we can’t nail him.”

“But Kristin,” Mary said, “he knows the police can find him and harass him, locking him up in jail for violations of probation, like Joseph did before.” They just can’t seem to hold him without more evidence.”

“So you’re thinking that he plans on taking her someplace where no one will know they are connected?” Kristin closed her eyes as lurid pictures of Mikayla and Germaine’s “friends” started spinning in her head.

“Exactly! Who knows what kind of connections Germaine has,” Mary exclaimed. “Even if he doesn’t go out of the area with her, he may send her away, or get rid of her. Mikayla may have become too much of a liability for him at this point. This is not the time for a memo to the file. We have to take some action.”

“We can’t hold her in detention past her due out date, without her permission,” Kristin reasoned. “That’s illegal. We can’t commit her to a residential program on just a misdemeanor battery charge. That’s illegal. If we send her to a safe house or group home, she’ll run.” Kristin covered her face with her hands, trying to think of a good alternative

“And we can’t rely on her momma to protect her,” Mary replied. “She’s well meaning, but not strong enough. The psychiatric program won’t take her due to lack of mental health history. There are no secure safe houses for victims of human trafficking. The law says we can’t lock the kids up when they are victims. And in theory, I agree. But we have to keep them safe.”

Kristin reached for her phone. “It’s time to gather the team. We need to get Joseph, Raphael and Mikayla’s probation officer involved. Maybe we can set a trap for Germaine. We can’t let him leave town with Mikayla. Like you said, this is not the time for a memo for the file or, frankly, a court hearing. We’ve got to take action ourselves.”

Mary moved to the rose-colored settee by the window, her favorite piece of furniture in Kristin’s office. She was still breathing rapidly as she watched Kristin speed dial the offices of the state attorney, sheriff’s office and juvenile probation.

Kristin’s eyes met hers. They both knew that what they were doing was way out of the ordinary. Probably bordering on unethical or illegal. But something had to be done.

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