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Chapter 42

“Sometimes the bravest thing I do is wake up each morning.”

Robby Hartman

Mary waved Kristin’s judicial assistant a quick hello and burst into the judge’s chambers without knocking. “Oh, my Lord, Kristin. I heard the news on the radio coming over this morning. There’s just got to be some kind of mistake,” she said without taking a breath.

Kristin sat motionless in her swivel chair facing the window, her back to Mary, her blonde hair pulled into a tight bun. She reached behind her and picked up a newspaper on her desk and handed it to Mary, without a word.

Child Sex Sting Cop Arrested For Soliciting Minors

By Kurt Cougar, City Editor

Sheriff officials announced last night the arrest and firing of Detective Joseph Russo on charges of soliciting sex from a number of minors, some as young as twelve years old, both on the Internet and in person. Det. Russo had been a member of the department’s elite undercover sting, entrapping adults seeking sex with minors over the Internet in cooperation with state and Federal law enforcement authorities. Russo had been hailed as one of the most dedicated and enthusiastic members of the sting operation, the Sheriff said.

Although charges haven’t been filed yet, State Attorney Clark Stackhouse says they will be as soon as all the evidence is organized.

“The guy is scum,” Stackhouse said. “His job is to protect these vulnerable girls and boys. He’s taken advantage of his position and become a predator—a pedophile—of the most dangerous sort.”

The Sheriff was slightly less judgmental. “It is so sad that a sick segment of our society, bent on ruining the lives of children, adolescents, just coming into their own full lives, has required us to put our finest law enforcement officers in the position of pretending to be minors willing to have sex for money, love or whatever. Det. Russo did a fine job and led to many arrests before he apparently succumbed to the temptations of his job. I hope he gets the intensive psychological and psychiatric help he needs.”

When asked if the department would simply suspend him without pay, pending mental health treatment, the Sheriff shook his head. “Absolutely not. This man has preyed upon our most vulnerable citizens. He has committed rape. At least statutory rape. He is not fit at this time to be connected with our office. He is facing felony charges of the most serious nature. Regardless of whether he gets help, I don’t think we’re going to be seeing Det. Russo in the community for quite a long time, if ever.”

Mary set the paper back down on the desk and collapsed into a chair. “Tell me it isn’t so,” she sighed.

Kristin moved some files to sit on the edge of her desk, facing her friend.

“Mary, Joseph and I have had so much fun together in the last few months. Concerts, motorcycle rides, fishing. He makes me laugh a lot; more fun than I’ve had in a long time. The twins love to be with him and Ron and Jackson approve. Good grief, what will those two think when they read the news?”

“So tell me it isn’t true,” Mary pleaded, raising her voice.

Kristin stared at her friend, finding it hard to maintain her Nordic composure in the face of such emotion. But it bought her some time—precious seconds to decide what to do. Sliding off the edge of the desk, she stood looking down at Mary. “This is a…ah…a complication.”

“Damn right, Kristin,” Mary sputtered, standing up next to her. “A complication of the highest order and I don’t believe a word of it. What’s going on?”

Mary wouldn’t let it go, Kristin thought. She was just too smart and knew Joseph too well. She would have to break a promise. Don’t tell anyone, Joseph had said. Don’t tell. Don’t tell anyone, Chad had said again and again, before she wore a wire and turned him in. Broken promises.

“Mary, you can’t repeat this conversation—not to anyone. I promised Joseph. If anyone else finds out it will jeopardize the mission. There’s more at stake than Mikayla and the sex trafficking. It’s bigger than that. Promise?”

“I understand. I promise.”

Kristin pulled a chair next to Mary and they both sat down. “Mary, Joseph came over to exchange presents after we left your folks’ house at Christmas. After the kids went to bed, he told me that he was moving into a top secret undercover operation. He said it would involve Germaine, but that “there are bigger fish to fry.” She smiled at that. “Doesn’t that sound just like Joseph?

“He said he wouldn’t be able to see me for a while, but to keep track of Mikayla. I guess that gives me an excuse to break my promise to him and tell you. Just before he left that night he warned me not to believe what I read in the newspapers.”

Mary leaned towards Kristin and put her hand on Kristin’s knee. “That explains a lot, but what a sacrifice Joseph is making. All this publicity! I know his background pretty well. He had some tough times growing up, especially being encouraged to be a ‘man’ before he was ready. Kristin, how deeply involved are you with him?”

“I’ve already slept with him. On Captain Mike’s boat.”

“I thought the boat was for fishing?”

“Oh Mary, you are so naïve sometimes. It’s something I love about you,” Kristin chuckled.

“And Captain Mike?”

“He’s single, Mary. We’ve used each other—or rather enjoyed each other---for over a year now. Always in his cabin, after the passengers and crew have gone. He was even happy to give Joseph and me the keys to the cabin. Oh God, what will he think if he hears about Joseph.”

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