Home > The Last Move(7)

The Last Move(7)
Author: Mary Burton

Sara studied Kate.

“I know it won’t be easy,” Kate coaxed. “But you have to look. Point to any picture you recognize, and I’ll take care of the rest.”

The girl’s blue eyes were wild with fear, but also rage. She was in there somewhere.

“I’ll make him pay,” Kate whispered.

Sara’s brow furrowed before she scanned the pictures.

Immediately she locked onto the third image on the left. A sob caught in her throat as she reached for the picture. Slowly she brought the image closer, staring at the face of the man with the black beard and shoulder-length hair.

Sara swallowed, then crushed the image in her hand, squeezing until her knuckles whitened.

Kate gently laid her hand over Sara’s fist and slowly unfurled her fingers. She took the crumbled image and smoothed it out. “I need you to tell me he’s the guy who took you.”

Sara closed her eyes. She nodded.

Kate studied the crinkled image. “You’re sure?”

Another nod.

She’d identified Raymond Drexler Jr.

“You’re sure?”

She opened her eyes and mouthed, “Yes.”

Kate collected all the pictures and tucked them in her pocket. “Good work, Sara. I’ll nail him.”

A quiet desperation deepened the lines in Sara’s forehead and around her mouth. She was eighteen but looked decades older.

“I’ll catch him. I promise you.” Promises were tricky, and Kate didn’t make them often. But she would hunt this piece of garbage to the ends of the earth.

Kate wished she could tell Sara her demons would vanish when Drexler was caught and convicted. “I’m not going to kid you. Catching him will help, and it’ll save other girls. But it won’t make your nightmares disappear completely. Time will fade some of the memories, but nothing in this lifetime will ever purge those thirty-four days.”

Sara’s frown softened.

Kate knew the nurses, doctors, and cops were telling the girl she was safe now. They were doing everything they could to reassure her. Of course, physically she was safe. Her body would eventually heal. However, the psychological part of the equation was a different matter. Her life would never be what it had been. The old Sara was dead.

“I’m very proud of you, Sara. To survive what you did . . . well, you’re amazing. You’re Wonder Woman.”

The first, very faint flickers of hope crossed the girl’s gaze before a fresh frown scattered them.

Kate mentally distanced herself from the crushing sadness that always stalked her. “I’ll be posting this man’s face in every department in the country. It won’t be long. In the meantime, you’re safe here. It’s a lockdown unit. No one gets in.”

The girl glanced toward the door.

“I got in, yes. I not only have a badge, but I’m short and also very charming when I try.”

A brow raised.

Good, she understood sarcasm. More signs of life. “Ah, you must remember how delightful I was with your rescue squad driver?” The attendant, after trying to remove the bracelet, had tried to take a picture of Sara, likely to sell to the media. Kate had snatched his phone away and ground it into the mud with her foot. “I think he called me a tiny-ass bitch.”

The girl’s lips twitched. A year ago the poor kid might have smiled or even laughed at the self-deprecating comment.

Kate plugged the television cord back into the socket and handed the girl the television remote. “I’ll call you when we have him.”

Sara grabbed Kate’s wrist in a surprising grip. Kate stopped. Time stretched as she stared into the girl’s eyes, so full of wrenching pain. Sara pulled off the Wonder Woman bracelet, and with trembling fingers she slid it onto Kate’s wrist.

Kate reverently touched the bracelet, needing a second before she could steady her voice. “Are you sure?”

The girl nodded.

“I like it. In fact, it rather works for me.” Kate tapped her finger on the worn W. “But when I catch this guy, I’m bringing it back to you, and you can decide what happens to it next.”

The girl’s nod was almost imperceptible as she relaxed back against the pillows and turned on the television. She switched the channels again.

Kate left her room and made her way off the wing and down the elevator. Outside, she spotted her partner leaning against an unmarked blue four-door FBI vehicle. Agent Michael Nevada stood several inches over six feet. He had broad shoulders, a bare-knuckle brawler’s hands, and a perpetual scowl. He was handy to have when her five feet didn’t intimidate skeptical cops and streetwise criminals. Words had power, but sometimes it could only take you so far.

Nevada pushed away from the car. “You made it past the nurses, I see?”

“The Lollipop Kid rides again.” She shrugged off the white coat, balled it up, and shoved it in a backpack resting on the pavement beside him. “Thanks for distracting the woman at reception.”

He tossed her the FBI jacket she’d left with him. “Did Sara make an identification?”

Kate handed him the wrinkled picture. “Raymond Drexler.”

Nevada flicked the edge of the picture. “So, you were right?”


Nevada grunted when emotions got the better of him. “I’m looking forward to finding this guy.”

“Damn right.”

He grinned. “I’d do this part of the job for free.”

As she glanced at her phone to check email, the display flashed an unknown name. Area code was San Antonio, Texas. Her mother lived there, which was reason enough to answer instead of letting it go to voicemail. She also realized she’d missed three calls while the phone was muted. “Dr. Kate Hayden.”

“Dr. Hayden, this is Detective Theo Mazur with the San Antonio Police Department.”

She stilled. A call from the cops never promised good news. “What can I do for you, Detective?”

“We’ve had a shooting on I-35. Woman traveling alone, car broke down, and she was shot point-blank in the chest. I understand you worked several cases like this one in the last year.”

Her trapped breath bled through her lips. She’d arrested Dr. Charles Richardson six months ago. When Dr. Richardson had been actively killing, he’d reached out to the cops via texts on burners left with the victims. After her press conference in Oklahoma days after the third murder, he communicated with her directly via the burners.

The texts had contained a mix of well-thought-out sentences and odd misspellings. This had gone on for weeks. There’d been a fourth killing and then a fifth. And then Richardson had made a mistake. He’d texted her with a phone that was traced to his secretary.

Kate had Richardson brought in for questioning. She’d been all smiles and offered him coffee, which he’d accepted. After he left, she’d had his DNA tested. It matched touch DNA found on the first victim’s car. That had been enough to get a judge to sign a warrant for his financials. Credit card receipts led to purchases of burner phones and bullets. And in victim five’s case, an ATM camera captured a car following her. An enhanced version of the picture caught part of a license plate of a stolen vehicle. Several partial prints pulled from the vehicle’s radio button and turn signal switch matched Richardson’s.

Though she’d yet to find the gun, which would definitely link Richardson to all the killings, she could now connect him directly to two of the five killings and had investigators digging deeper into his past. In time, she expected she’d link all five murders.

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