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?”
She’d identified Raymond Drexler Jr.
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.”