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Her Last Word

Her Last Word

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THE DISAPPEARANCE OF GINA MASON INTERVIEW FILE #1

KAITLIN ROE

Monday, January 1, 2018; 1:00 a.m.

My name is Kaitlin Roe. I am the lone witness to the abduction of my eighteen-year-old cousin, Gina Mason. Not a day has passed in the last fourteen years that I haven’t remembered those last moments with Gina and the masked stranger on that dark road. For years, my inability to save Gina has tortured me. To dull my guilt and regret, I’ve made too many unwise choices. Drinking. Drug use. Sex. Mine has been a life not well lived.

But that has all changed.

Now, I’ve put on the brakes, sobered up, and returned to Richmond, Virginia. I’m willing to face the people who see me as a drunk and a liar. My goal is to interview and record anyone and everyone attached to Gina’s case and then edit all those interviews into a podcast that, I hope, will shine a light on my cousin’s case. Maybe I will finally find a way to bring her home.

PROLOGUE

Thursday, March 15, 2018; 6:00 p.m.

“Hi, I’m Gina Mason, Saint Mathew’s class of 2004! Welcome to the Rebels’ soccer team—district finalists three years in a row!”

Remembering the videotape of Gina made the cramped, hot space under Jennifer Ralston’s bed bearable. He’d been here for almost three hours impatiently waiting for her. The tulips arranged into a heart shape beside him gave him comfort and strengthened his resolve.

For fourteen years no one had known Gina’s fate, and not knowing was torture. Gina had been everyone’s friend, especially Jennifer’s, and this woman along with others had abandoned his angel on that dark road. Gina’s loss had fueled a kaleidoscope of blackening thoughts that had finally driven him here.

He lightly fingered the ivory handle of his eight-inch hunting knife. Just a few more minutes. She was coming.

“Today, I want each teammate to say a little about herself. Tell me what you love most, your favorite color, your secret crush, and if you could have a superpower, what would it be?”

A key slid into the front door, and a trio of locks gave way. A familiar chime of the home security system announced her arrival. The keypad chirped with each digit entered into it, and then three dead bolts clicked back into place. The sequence never varied.

He took solace knowing he wasn’t the only one who’d been tormented by Gina’s disappearance. Jennifer pretended she was fine, but he knew she wasn’t. She rightly blamed herself for what had happened to Gina.

He curled his fingers around the knife handle. Heels tapped on polished wood floors, a purse dropped to the small foyer table, and keys clanked into the blue ceramic dish. One shoe hit the floor and then the other.

A light snapped on, illuminating the staircase to the second floor as bare feet padded through the house toward the kitchen. Drinkware clinked as Jennifer poured the evening’s first glass of wine. He’d been watching her long enough to know she drank to forget. Seconds passed, and then another clank of the bottle against glass. Round two. She was right on schedule.

The wooden staircase creaked. He stilled his breath and hushed the voices in his head. The lights in the bedroom switched on and revealed her pretty manicured toes as she walked by.

“My favorite color is blue. I love the color so much I named by dog Bluebell. And my secret crush is Angel on Buffy.”

Fourteen years was a long time without a trace of Gina. He might not ever be able to bring Gina home, but he could finally serve up justice.

Jennifer would be his first. Her sentence: death by a thousand cuts.

Her phone rang, shattering the silence and sending fresh ripples of tension through him.

She answered on the third ring. “Hey, sis,” she said, a little breathless. “Yeah, I’ll be ready in a half hour. What? No, you have to come. Ashley, we promised Kaitlin we’d both be there.”

Taking several sips, Jennifer listened to her sister’s prattle.

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