Home > The Last Move(6)

The Last Move(6)
Author: Mary Burton

The nurse drew in a sudden breath. “My God.”

“He’s going to do it again.” She hoped the image of the girl, legs broken and suffering in a dark box, haunted this woman for a long time. It tormented her. “I just need to ask her one question.”

The nurse’s lips flattened. “She’s not talking to anyone.”

“Is she awake?”


“Then we’ll be fine.” Kate didn’t bother with a thank-you as she moved past the nurse and down the hallway still decorated with paper Thanksgiving turkeys. When she reached room 602, she didn’t knock but slowly opened the door to the dimly lit room.

Eighteen-year-old Sara Fletcher lay in her bed, a television remote gripped in her hands as she stared at the muted television screen. The girl was channel surfing, clicking from network to network without giving herself a second to see what was playing. The room was filled with flowers and Mylar balloons featuring Wonder Woman, who apparently had been a favorite of the girl when she was younger.


The girl gripped the remote. Sharp blue eyes locked onto Kate with the leeriness of an animal caught in a trap. Even if the girl could run, her muscles still wouldn’t support her weight.

Sara Fletcher had long blond hair that framed a thin pale face with angled cheekbones and a pointed chin. She’d lost twenty-six pounds of fat and muscle during her ordeal, and it would take weeks, perhaps months, before her body recovered.

Kate stood still, giving Sara a moment to study her in the dimly lit room. Seconds ticked by, and though her suspicion didn’t abate, some of her tension eased.

Kate closed the door behind her. “You recognize me, don’t you? I’m Dr. Kate Hayden. I’m a profiler with the FBI. I found you.”

Tears glistened and her chin trembled.

Kate held up her badge as she moved slowly toward the bed. “I know I don’t look the part.” The white coat billowed around her small frame but covered jeans still coated in mud from the crime-scene search.

The girl studied the badge. She’d trusted a stranger once, and it had cost her dearly. Good. She was wary. That meant she was smart, and her chances of surviving this mentally were better.

“I recognize the look on your face.” Kate wasn’t adept at levity but understood it had its place. “It’s a ‘you don’t look like an agent’ glare. I get it a lot.” She was 101 pounds soaking wet, as her mother used to say. Her light-brown hair was curly and stayed scraped back in a ponytail most of the time. “Operation code names for me have run the gamut in the eight years I’ve been at this. Smurf, Munchkin, and my favorite, the Lollipop Kid.”

Beyond the odd monikers, she had a few lame jokes but right now couldn’t recall a single one as the guilt of not finding this kid faster pressed against her chest. The girl stared at her, silent, but suddenly observant.

“People think when you’re small you aren’t smart or aggressive. But we can be the toughest of the tough, right?”

Sara nibbled her chapped lip and stared back at the television.

“We acted on an anonymous tip that led us to the abandoned Anderson farm.” The Anderson name carried weight in this county, and when the tip first came in, it had been discounted. Another two days passed before the local authorities had called the FBI.

Kate had traveled to the farmhouse within hours of being contacted. She’d quickly found Sara’s box, and as she pried out the nails hammered into the lid, she’d heard the girl’s faint cry for help. She’d felt exhilaration, anger, and sadness as she opened the lid and discovered the painfully thin, pale, and frightened girl. Sara hadn’t been able to give Kate the name of her abductor before paramedics had taken the girl away in the ambulance. Kate was left to study the surrounding property and the abandoned wooden outbuildings, now graying and tumbling under decades of abuse from the harsh Utah winters. With the use of ground-penetrating radar, they’d found the location of other graves.

Upstairs at the farmhouse, Kate had discovered fast-food wrappers, receipts, stacks of newspapers, and Sara’s purse. A rumpled hardware store credit card receipt for lumber, nails, and duct tape had yielded the name of Raymond Drexler Jr., a cousin to the Anderson family. Surveillance cameras from the hardware store had shown Drexler buying supplies. A background search of Drexler turned up mug shots, arrest records, and mental-health records for a man addicted to stalking.

Today, she didn’t have all the answers. But she had Drexler’s name and a picture that she hoped Sara would identify as her abductor.

She moved to the side of the bed but didn’t pull up a chair. She respected Sara’s personal space. “We haven’t caught the guy yet.”

Sara tightened her hold on the remote and turned up the volume of the television. She surfed faster, turning the channels into an unrecognizable blur.

This kind of avoidance was expected, and Kate didn’t fault the girl, but she needed a suspect identification. If they couldn’t communicate with words, then actions would have to do. She slowly crossed to the television and unplugged it.

Silence crackled in the room. Sara’s brow knotted, a hoarse moan escaped her lips, and she tossed the remote at Kate. When it hit the floor, the back panel opened and batteries tumbled free.

Kate picked up the pieces and carefully reassembled them. “I need your full attention now, Sara.”

Sara frowned, dropping her gaze to the blanket. Pale, thin fingers, with nails still brutally short and jagged from scratching at wood, rubbed a dirty, inexpensive Wonder Woman bracelet she’d been wearing since the day she’d been taken.

The bracelet’s red, yellow, and blue paint and the W were worn down. When rescue crews had tried to remove the bracelet, the girl had howled and fought. The trinket wasn’t expensive and had been a gag gift at a girlfriend’s eighteenth come-as-a-sexy-superhero birthday party. But this insignificant bauble had been with the girl through the entire ordeal, and rubbing it had become a self-soothing technique that allowed Sara to cling to sanity. Kate had been the one who intervened with the rescue crew and told them to leave the bracelet alone.

“I’ve four pictures I’d like you to look at,” Kate said.

She removed the pictures from her coat pocket, but kept them pressed to her chest. “All I want for you to do is look at the pictures. If you recognize one of the individuals just point, nod, blink, or grunt.”

The girl’s gaze remained downcast. Her hand trembled as she picked at an already threadbare spot on the blanket.

“He cannot hurt you anymore,” Kate said. “Now it’s my turn to go after him and make him pay. He needs to be locked in a small prison cell for the rest of his life. Will you help me?”

Sara stared into Kate’s eyes as if searching for a lifeline. Her bloodshot eyes were dry, no hint of tears.

One by one, Kate laid the mug shots beside the girl on the bed as if dealing cards. She was also careful not to look at the pictures, fearing a glimmer or linger would prejudice identification. She didn’t want the girl to parrot her thoughts. She wanted a legitimate ID.

“You need to look at the pictures.” Kate checked her watch. “I shamed a nurse into letting me into this room, but she’s going to shake it off soon, decide I’m trouble, and insist I leave. I’m breaking a few dozen rules just by being here.”

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