EAST OR WEST OF 49? Robby texted back.
Mikayla was in way over her head, he thought.
She was in danger. She’d texted about a bad cop and Germaine, that older guy. If Robby called 911, the police were liable to protect their own and maybe arrest Mikayla. If he called 911, they would ask for an address and he didn’t know exactly where she was.
He had met with Dr. Visconti fifteen minutes ago. When he told her about Mikayla skipping school, she seemed very concerned. He dialed her number. She would know what to do.
Thank God she was in her office and answered right away.
“Dr. Visconti, it’s Robby Hartman. I know we talked a few minutes ago, but I just got a text from Mikayla. She sounds scared. She can’t talk, but she sent me a text saying that she was hiding from her old boyfriend, Germaine, a dirty cop and some other white guy. She wanted help.” He gave her the location on Mikayla’s text. Southside. Near 22nd. Avenue.
Mary put her head down. A dirty cop involved with Germaine and Mikayla? It had to be Joseph. This might be good news. She recovered quickly. Robby needed an answer.
“Okay, Robby, you did the right thing. I’m going to send help to Mikayla. You stay at school and I’ll check back with you later.”
Mary quickly dialed Raphael. He was supposed to be at a juvenile gang conference.
The phone went right to voice mail. Shit! Mary dialed again. Surely her name came up on his cell phone. Voice mail again.
Mary tried a text. No response. Mary was dialing Kristin’s cell phone when hers pinged with a text from Raphael.
CAN’T TALK NOW. WILL CALL LATER.
Oh great, Mary thought. She responded.
EMERGENCY. MIKAYLA. NEED TO TALK NOW.
HOLD TIGHT. SOON.
How could she hold tight? Raphael wanted more open communication, but he wouldn’t respond to her in an emergency? So much for that. She only knew that Mikayla was somewhere on the south side of St. Petersburg, near Twenty Second Avenue South. That covered a lot of territory. She raced out of her office to the parking lot, jumped in her car and headed south as fast as she dared. Once she was headed down Forty-Ninth Street and her blue tooth connected to her phone, she called Kristin’s cell phone.
“Thank God you answered.”
“What’s wrong, Mary?”
“I’m on my way to help Mikayla. Robby received a text from her about ten minutes ago. She’s in trouble and hiding in some location on the south side of St. Pete. Walking distance from Forty Ninth Street near Twenty Second Avenue South. I think Joseph is involved, as well as Germaine and some other white guy. The white guy could be Luke Haller, from what we saw on those awful videos. Raphael wouldn’t answer my calls. Can you call the Sheriff?”
“Better than that, I’ll call Clark Stackhouse. He just let me know that Paula Travers signed a complete confession including the location where Luke Haller stores his files and other stuff. She described it as an abandoned warehouse. Hold on. I’ll call Clark on my office line.”
Mary kept driving south as she heard Kristin using all the powers of her office to get the elected State Attorney immediately on the phone. “Give me the address, quickly, Clark. That’s all I need now.”
A minute later Kristin was back on her phone with the address. Yes, Mary thought, just a short walk from the bus stop on Forty-Ninth Street, as Mikayla’s text had said.
“I know the building,” Kristin said. “It belonged to Cronk’s Seafood Supplies. There was a retail store on the west corner. They used the warehouse for shipping supplies, wooden crab traps, fishing gear and other stuff. I used to represent the Cronk family. Be careful, Mary. It’s been abandoned for years and who knows what kind of people it has attracted.”
“I can’t wait. I can’t sit back knowing that Mikayla will be harmed by Germaine or even worse, Luke Haller. He’s on the run and has nothing to lose by silencing her. Or Joseph will be killed.”
“Please be careful, Mary. I can’t take anymore grief right now. I don’t want you getting in the way of a bullet.”
“I won’t jump in unless Mikayla is being harmed. I don’t want them to take her someplace else.”
Kristin heard Mary hang up. She’d forgotten to tell Mary that Clark Stackhouse practically ordered her not to get involved, that the situation was under control. It wouldn’t have mattered. Mary was on a mission.
The direct line to her office rang again. She didn’t want to talk to anyone so she let it go to message. She recognized the sheriff’s voice.
“Judge Dahlen. Clark Stackhouse just called with the information you provided. It’s very helpful, but please stay out of this. We expect Joseph to lead us to people involved in minor sex trafficking. You and Dr. Visconti need to stay out of it and let us finish our job.”
Kristin thought about the situation. How could Mary act so impulsively? How could she, Kristin, just sit here when a girl in her court, Mikayla, was in trouble? Was there a separation of powers issue? She thought back to law school. She was the judge, the judicial branch. Stackhouse and law enforcement were the executive branch. Could she cross those boundaries? She wasn’t supposed to.
She called the sheriff back. Thank God, he answered immediately.
“Stay out of this? This involves girls and boys in our court. How can you expect me to stay out of it?” Kristin’s voice rose.
“Judge,” the sheriff sighed. “I know about the kids. I know you’re involved. I also know about your relationship with Joseph. Please, please let us handle this.”
“Have you got a tail on Joseph? Is he leading you to the traffickers? What the hell is going on?”
“That’s what I can’t tell you, Judge. All I can say is that Joseph is…is… he’s one of us…” He hung up.
Damn him, she thought. What should she do?
Her mind went back to Norway and her first ski lessons with her father at age six. “Ikke gjer det sa komplisert. Ikke bry deg om avingene. Bare pek skiene dine nedover, og kjor i. vei,” he told her many times.
“It’s not that complicated, Kristin. Don’t over think it. Don’t worry about all the turns. Just do the right thing. Point your skis downhill and let them take over.”
Hadn’t she said that to Anders and Berit many times?
Don’t over complicate it.
Five minutes later she was heading south on Forty Ninth Street to the old Cronk’s Seafood Company.