THIRTY-EIGHT

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Virginia was at the station by nine A.M. even though her shift was in the afternoon. She needed the time to set up a meeting between the prosecutor, Anderson, and herself to work out the plea deal. She called the JDAI and went over Simon's case with them on the phone. They were willing to help, if the judge agreed. Simon's detention hearing was set for three in the afternoon.

For court, she changed into her duty uniform. The navy trousers and open-collared, short-sleeve shirt were much less constricting than her dress uniform, but still required the formal display of the police badge over the left pocket, nametag over the right, embroidered patch on each arm, and lieutenant bar on both collars. Her hair was pulled up in a bun to be off of her shoulders. It was days like these that gave her a renewed appreciation for her usual T-shirt and comfortable pants.

She arrived ten minutes before the hearing was to start. Anderson and Spinelli were in the hallway of the courthouse, deep in conversation. She kept a respectful distance, not wanting to appear as though she were eavesdropping. Instead, she used the opportunity to admire the cut of Spinelli's three-piece suit. The firmness of his jawline as he spoke. The way the bottom of his hair curled and seemed to flirt with the collar of his shirt, brushing across it with featherlike caresses. Counting on him not noticing, she allowed her eyes to do one slow lap down his long length and back up . . . only to find blue eyes locked onto hers at the finish line.

A slow smile pushed the anxiety from his features, making her cheeks heat up. He had caught her at it again—gawking like an idiot. She could have kissed the bailiff when he chose that moment to come out to the hall and call them in, saving her from any further blundering.

Simon was already there, sitting at the defendant table. Spinelli and Anderson joined him while Virginia walked over to the prosecutor.

"All rise," the bailiff called out.

They stood as the door in the corner of the room opened. She was happy to see it was Judge Carlyle, someone she knew—well, technically it was her father who knew him—as he stepped up to the bench and sat down.

"Please be seated," the bailiff directed.

The proceedings were quick. The prosecutor presented the plea agreement, which Judge Carlyle accepted, entering a finding of "delinquency."

When the discussion turned to release conditions, Anderson offered, "We would like to recommend Simon be released to his uncle's custody to await disposition."

The judge glanced at Spinelli before answering, "I don't think I can do that, counselor. I don't like seeing these kids' faces in front of me doing repeat performances, and I can't with clear conscience release him to a relative with questionable associations."

Virginia stood. "Your Honor?"

The judge swung his gaze over to her. "Lieutenant Robins, always a pleasure to see you in my courtroom."

"Thank you, your Honor. I have been in contact with the JDAI and they have agreed to work with Simon—if you approve." She walked over to the bailiff with the application she had filled out that morning.

He in turn walked it over to Judge Carlyle.

As the judge scanned the document, she went on, "They will set him up in a reporting center during the week and assign him accommodations. He can take classes at the local community college. On weekends he is free to come home as long as he has someone appointed as his supervisor to check in with on Saturday or Sunday. I can be that person."

"That's very nice of you, Lieutenant." He glanced over at Simon. "College courses?"

"He wants to be a lawyer, your Honor," Virginia added.

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