The guard at the jail scowled at Kristin. If he hadn’t shaved his head, she would have attributed his mood to a bad hair day. She flashed him her wide Nordic smile and pushed her badge closer to his hand on the desk. She had to be careful about abusing her power.
“This is highly unusual, Judge, but if you say it pertains to the safety of a juvenile, that’s your bailiwick and since you phoned ahead, we’ve arranged for you to see the inmate in a private room, away from the other prisoners. Of course, he will remain handcuffed the whole time and a guard will remain right outside your door.” The deputy was polite but looked skeptical.
“Thank you officer. As I said, I spoke with the defense attorney and assured him I wasn’t going to talk about current charges, so he okayed the visit,” Kristin said, moving past him in a dark suit, head covered with a black silk scarf. Her headdress probably didn’t reassure him, but courthouse windows faced the jail and she didn’t want to be recognized. She stopped worrying about herself when she saw Joseph sitting down, right wrist bandaged inside handcuffs, a wide cut on his right cheek beginning to scab over and two black eyes. It had been less than a week since his arrest.
“You shouldn’t have come,” he said, when the door closed behind them. He remained seated and spoke without inflection. “I thought I made that clear.”
“You made a lot of things clear that night, Joseph, but the issue of visitation never came up. You were too busy describing the excitement of your mission. Oh, Joseph. I so hope it is worth it. Look at you, beaten up by inmates who think you’re a dirty cop…or worse. And the newspaper story. Everyone is talking about it and I can’t say a thing. Ron and Jackson feel betrayed, and fearful that the twins might hear the news. Maybe you should have thought a little longer before you agreed to bring on such public shame.”
Joseph moved to reach for Kristin’s arm as she sat across from him, but the handcuffs quickly dug into his injured wrist. “Ouch,” he yelped. “Kristin, you’re raking me over the coals of guilt.” He gave her that crooked smile from the side of his mouth that always made her lips turn upward. Today was an exception.
Kristin broke the silence. “It’s about Mikayla. She’s still running away from the group home. Half the time they don’t even report it. Do you want us to monitor her situation? Are you still interested in her relationship with Germaine, like we talked about before your big announcement?”
“Of course, their relationship is a big part of this operation. You need to keep track of her movements and be prepared to tell me when they are together, when the time is right.
“And you need to cut the sarcasm. This is hard enough on me and if I can’t count on you to believe in what I am doing, then…” His voice wandered off but he picked it up again.
“Ron and Jackson will have to wait to hear the truth later. As for the twins, well…I can’t believe they would hear about this.”
Kristin spread her fingers on the table, looking down at them for a long moment. Here we go again, she thought. Ever since Chad was arrested she fought for simplicity in her life. Good job, great kids, new romance with a straight shooting Italian detective. Now, once again, shit kicked up and it was secrets and lies, stories to protect the cover-up. Was Joseph worth this?
When she met his eyes, there were tears in hers. “Forgive me, Joseph. It was selfish of me. You are the one who has sacrificed, who is suffering. You’ll hear no more whining from me. So, how is the new assignment going?”
Joseph released a long breath, leaned closer to her and spoke in a hushed voice: “Germaine got arrested this afternoon. A stop and frisk for drug possession. Lots of needle marks on his arms. They took pictures of him. But they couldn’t find an evidence of a drug sale, so he’ll be released in a day or two when the public defender finally gets around to seeing him and setting a hearing. So I’ve got about two days—six meals—to buddy up to the guy to get his link to the sex trafficking ring and much more. It’s happening already, as they put Germaine in my cell and it turns out there is no one he ridicules more than a dirty cop, especially a cop who likes kids way too much. He’s already talking about a “deal” with me, thinking that I can protect him as he climbs the ladder of the sex trafficking ring. His bait is the money he tells me I’ll make from the bigger part of the racketeering scheme.”
“Which is?” Kristin asked.
“Child pornography…videos of kids having sex…snuff films. You name it. The sex trafficking is the tip of the iceberg. The real money in under the water.”
Kristin eyes grew wide and she shook her head in disgust.
“If Mikayla would only turn on him, we’d have a clear case of soliciting a minor for sex.” Joseph said. “That would put him away for a long time, long enough to make him squeal.”
“How are you going to do it, Joseph? He knows you are on to him. You arrested him yourself during the ride along you took Mary and me on a few months ago?”
“Ah, pretty lady,” he said. “Germaine in jail is a different species from Germaine on the loose, with young things like Mikayla at his beck and call. He’ll do about anything to be released. He knows I’m going to bail out of here soon. If Germaine thinks that we can work together and increase the profits, he’ll take that chance. He thinks he can’t lose. And, of course, thanks to all the publicity I’ve received he thinks I’m as dirty as he is, and that delights him.
Kristin turned away. “I’m not sure I should be hearing all this.”
Joseph stared her down. “You don’t have to, Judge. All you have to do is let me know where Mikayla is when I bail out. She and Germaine will find each other, believe me. And that’s when Germaine will lead me to the money men.”
“And nothing will happen to Mikayla?” she asked again.
“Of course not.. Nothing will happen to her except that she will be forever free of this scumbag child molester who thinks he’s a porn star.