Home > Her Last Word(14)

Her Last Word(14)
Author: Mary Burton

His eyes never left her. “I hear Mrs. Mason died.”

Kaitlin and her aunt had talked about the podcast in her final days. She’d been worried about her aunt’s reaction and had been pleased when she’d given her approval. “Eight weeks ago.”

“Mrs. Mason was my mom’s friend. They played tennis together. I truly liked her. She was always nice to me. Maybe I should have met with her before I got locked up again. I could have shared a few secrets.”

“What kind of secrets?” Kaitlin asked, even knowing he would lie.

He shook his head. “I don’t know. What kind of secrets do you think I have?”

“You tell me.”

“I know where she is,” he said, grinning.

Everyone assumed Gina had died long ago, but no one really knew. However, the surety humming under his statement took her aback. “Randy, no one knows what happened to her. You said so yourself.”

“That’s right. That’s what I said.”

“What’re you saying now?”

He cracked his knuckles, and she noticed the letter tattoos on his fingers. D-E-A-D on the right hand. K-I-L-L on the left.

He was center stage in her life again, and the glint in his eyes told her he liked it. “It’s important to you that she’s found, isn’t it, girl?”

“It is, Randy. And maybe it’s important to you, too.”

“Do the cops still care?”

“I have no idea. I care, and I know you care. You grew up down the street from Gina. You grew up with her. You told me once about your crush on her. We both still have a connection to her.”

“So, if I did have information about Gina, what would you do for me?”

“Randy, what do you want?”

He slowly ran his tongue over his teeth. “Girl, I’ve missed you. Just seeing you is bringing back some fine memories.”

“Do you want money?”

“A few extra dollars in my canteen account would be appreciated for now, but I’m looking for more. I’m facing the death penalty this time.”

Ah, the real reason he called. He’d received word from the attorney on his case. “You killed a woman in a convenience store.”

“I didn’t mean to. I jabbed the knife at her thinking I’d scare her. But the dumb bitch moved, and the blade went right into her gut. Severed an artery. Not my fault.”

“What do you want?”

“Mom isn’t taking my calls anymore, and that means no more money. I’ve got an attorney, but he keeps telling me to sit tight. I’m tired of waiting and wondering how I’ll get out of this mess.” Anger deepened the lines on his face. “If this situation is getting fixed, I’m going to have to pull a rabbit out of my ass.”

“What does this have to do with Gina?”

He pointed both his index fingers at her as if he were a dueling cowboy. “Everything, sugar.”

“The cops placed you on Riverside Drive the night Gina vanished. Did you see what happened?”

He leaned forward, his gaze burning into her. “And if I did?”

“Did you see?”


He had no soul. His single priority was saving his own ass. And if he could play her in the process, all the better.

“What do you want?” she asked again.

He grinned.

It was a smile that was too familiar. The one he had always produced when they were dating and wanted to string her along.

This trip had felt necessary an hour ago. And maybe it was. You couldn’t pick and choose the demons you face. “You weren’t around when Gina vanished. My bet is you were in your parents’ garage smoking meth. You talk a big game, but you can’t deliver. Like always.”

As she moved to rise, he held up a hand. “Hold on there, Kait-lin. Don’t be in such a rush to leave. We were getting reacquainted. And I’ve missed seeing you so much.”

“Unless you can help me find Gina, you won’t see me again.”

A smile twitched at the corners of his mouth. “You’re cute when you talk tough.”

She gripped the receiver and looked toward the door, anxious to be out of here and free of him.

“You were there on the road,” he said.

“Already reported in the media, Randy.”

“You were so drunk you could barely stand.”

She slowly looked back at him. “Again, the entire city knew I was a lush before I left town. You’re boring me now.”

He shrugged, his grin widening. “I know where she is.”

The hair on the back of her neck rose. She sensed Randy wasn’t playing around anymore. She sat back down and stared at him, waiting for him to show his cards.

He steepled his index fingers and pointed to her. “Your blond hair threw me off. I like it better dark. Gina had dark hair.”

She remained silent because she didn’t trust her voice.

“He told you to run.”

“I asked you and everyone in the lineup to say run.”

He tapped a finger against his chin as if trying to remember. “He cut Gina’s ear.” He drew his finger across his right ear. “Sliced it right off. And that ear had an earring in it. I remember because I gave the silver dangles to you. You must have lent them to Gina.”

The blood drained from her face, leaving her lightheaded. It was a detail the media had never learned. As she sat in her chair, she remembered all the blood that had soaked her T-shirt. Gina’s blood. She’d never been able to explain how her blood came to be on her, but it was there. “Where’s Gina?”

Randy shook his head as he winked. “I don’t have many cards left to play, so I gotta be smart with this one. I want a lot more than your baby browns batting at me before I spill what I know.”

The bait was too tempting not to bite. “I’m listening.”

“Get me someone who can make me a real good deal. I’m not sure who you need to talk to, but you’ll figure it out. You’re smart. Smarter than Gina.”



Monday, January 15, 2018; 4:00 p.m.

It’s not easy facing Gina’s mother again. She’s in hospice care. It’s cold, almost always a given during January in Virginia, and the hint of snow lingers in the air. The light is dim, but the walls in Aunt Audrey’s room are painted a cheerful blue, and paper snowflakes made by a group of first graders hang from the tiled ceiling. And there is a bright arrangement of white tulips by her bed. It cheers me to know someone else is also thinking about her.

Despite how it all ended between us fourteen years ago, I had loved her. She’d opened her home to me and loved me like a daughter.

She’s in what looks like a regular bed hooked up to a morphine drip. A bright-yellow kerchief covers her balding head. She smiles, but is too weak to sit up. We talk about my podcast, and she wants to be on tape. The idea of going to her grave without knowing what happened to her daughter frightens her.

I kiss her on the cheek, and then we begin.

Our family was always small. It was Aunt Audrey and my mother. Gina was an only child. As I’ve said, I had a brother who committed suicide when I was fourteen. In the days after Gina vanished, Aunt Audrey and I were united in our terror and grief for Gina. And then as the weeks passed and the cops eventually turned their questions against me, Audrey began to doubt me. Why did I have Gina’s blood on my shirt? My inability to remember frustrated her, but the breaking point came at the police lineup with Randy Hayward. When I couldn’t identify him as the attacker, she’d broken down and asked me to leave her home.

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