Home > Her Last Word(13)

Her Last Word(13)
Author: Mary Burton

“What’s there to talk about? What’s done is done. I can’t save Gina or Jennifer.” She shook her head. “I said too much already.”

“Don’t you think about that night?”

“No, I don’t. It was tragic, but there’s nothing I could have done then or now.”

“Do you ever wonder if we could have helped her that night?”

“Like I said, I hadn’t thought about it until I made the mistake of talking to you.” She reached for the door handle. “Thank you for the news. Please leave my property.”

The door closed in Kaitlin’s face, and locks on the other side slid into place. For a moment she simply stood staring. Erika had Kaitlin’s number. When and if Erika was willing to talk, Kaitlin would be there.

Back in the car, she drove across town to the Richmond City Justice Center. She’d been there three times since Randy Hayward’s recent incarceration, but he’d refused to see her. This morning, however, she’d received a call from the jail.

“Will you accept a call from Randy Hayward?”

She shoved her hair out of her eyes and sat up in bed. “Yes.”

A click and then, “Kaitlin, this is Randy. Come by the jail. I’ve something for you.”

“What is it?” she asked.

“I’ll tell you in person.” The line went dead.

Now, as Kaitlin moved through the front doors of the jail into the modern, clean lobby, she shook off the raindrops. The lights were oddly bright, a nice break from the dreariness outside.

Her stomach tightened at the thought of seeing Randy. They’d dated when she’d been a know-it-all sixteen-year-old and he’d been a twenty-one-year-old college dropout who lived down the street from Gina. She’d been a lost soul, abandoned by a mother who sent her to an aunt in Virginia to get sober. She’d missed home so much and was still grieving for the brother who’d committed suicide. Despite her tough demeanor, she’d been vulnerable, and Randy had been happy to take advantage. Their relationship had run hot for a couple of months until a Fourth of July party when he’d hit her after she’d refused a beer. She’d known in that moment if she stayed with him, she wouldn’t make it.

The last time she’d seen Randy in the flesh had been in a police lineup. Once the cops placed Randy in the area the night Gina vanished, they’d quickly determined Kaitlin’s connection to him.

The day of the lineup her nerves had been scraped raw after weeks of police questioning, media scrutiny, and sleepless nights. She could barely breathe, but she’d stood in the small stifling room with her mother and aunt at her side. Through a two-way mirror, she’d watched the six men file past her. She’d recognized Randy of course, but she couldn’t say with certainty he’d taken Gina. She’d never seen the abductor’s face and only heard his voice. She’d asked the cops to get each man to speak. “Run or I’ll kill her.”

All the men in the lineup had repeated the phrase, and none of the voices had resonated. The cops had been frustrated, and her aunt had been furious. They’d all pressured her to listen to the voices again. She had. But she couldn’t identify the abductor.

Now she approached the front guard station and showed her ID, which she was required to leave with the guard. Her purse and phone weren’t permitted in the building and remained locked in her car.

She’d done her homework on Randy since she’d begun work on this project. He’d had a string of crimes in the interim since Gina died, and his last three-year stint in prison had ended in early January. Less than six weeks later, he’d obtained a knife and went into a convenience store to steal cash to fuel his meth habit. Instead, the female clerk confronted him, screaming for him to leave. Without hesitation, he’d stabbed the blade into her belly twice, severing an artery. The hemorrhaging put the clerk in a coma, and though the ER docs had stabilized her, she died a week later. Randy was facing capital murder charges, and the Commonwealth of Virginia still had the death penalty.

“Who’re you here to see?” the guard asked.

“Randy Hayward,” she said.

“Does he know you’re coming?”

“Yes. He called me this morning.”

Dark eyebrows rose. “You his public defender?”

“No. I’m here to talk to him about an old case.”

The guard shook his head. “I’ll let ’em know you’re here. Can’t make promises he’ll see you. What’s the name?”

“Kaitlin Roe.” She wondered what had changed since she’d first started calling him. Had he heard about Jennifer?

To the left was a room where the families met with the bail bondsman. Three women, one with a baby, waited their turn to post bail.

“Ms. Roe,” the guard said. “Follow the signs to the visitor’s room.”

“Thank you.” She crossed the carpeted floor to double doors. Following the signs, she made her way to the room.

The air smelled stale and the walls seemed to close in. The doors on the other side of the thick glass opened. A muscular man was escorted to the seat on the other side, and he made no attempt to hide his curiosity as he sat. Her memories of Randy Hayward were of a wiry younger man of twenty-one. His neck was thick with muscles and his skin covered in tattoos.

If at twenty-one his eyes projected juvenile insolence, at thirty-five his gaze telegraphed the cold calculation of a man who’d spent much of his adult life in prison.

She searched his eyes, expecting some flicker of recognition, and when she didn’t see any, she was relieved.

Then he winked and picked up his phone. She lifted the receiver to her ear.

“Well, look what the cat dragged in.”

“Randy, it’s been a long time.”

He leaned back, his gaze drinking her in. “I got to say, girl, you’re a sight for sore eyes.”

Girl. His pet name for her. Charming until he confessed he couldn’t remember names too well and called all females girl.

He lowered his gaze to her breasts. He grunted. “You sure know how to break up the daily routine.”

Revulsion slithered over her. “I came to talk to you about Gina Mason.”

“Who?” He held her gaze.

“Gina Mason. You remember. She vanished fourteen years ago.” And then she caught herself. The con was conning her.

He ran his tongue over his lips. “Right. Gina. The cops were sure I’d killed her. Boy, did they ever want to find her. They had a posse full of cops on the hunt, but they couldn’t prove anything. You know better than anyone. You had your chance to identify me, and you didn’t.” He made a sucking sound. “What ol’ Randy gave you was pretty special, wasn’t it? Popped your sweet cherry and made you his woman.”

She separated further from her rage and self-recriminations. Stupid choices could not be taken back. What mattered was now. “I’m making a podcast about her. I’m hoping she can finally be found.”

He narrowed his eyes, assessing her. “I’d forgotten all about her. I’d have thought they’d have found her by now.”

“She’s still missing. But you know all this, otherwise why call me?”

“Why do you want to find her? I always thought you were a little jealous of her. What was it you called her?”

Goody-Two-Shoes. “I don’t remember.”

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