Rebecca excused herself from the basement and dashed outside. She made it through the double doors seconds before she puked. She had seen some horrific crime scenes before, but this one definitely took the cake. Part of it had to do with the fact that it was Katie’s crime scene. But the depravity that took place here was beyond human. This scene made hardcore snuff films look like children’s movies. For a moment she thought about leaving and calling the assistant ME, but decided against it. Katie had experienced this. The least she could do was process it.
She made her way back to the basement, determining the best place to start. She decided to focus on the Grace’s body first. One of the crime scene techs was taking photos of the blood spatter from several different angles. She walked closer, careful not to step in the small pool of blood on the ground.
Rebecca kneeled next to Grace Adam’s dead body. In her opinion she had received far too easy of a death. Rebecca never did hold much stock in the “eye for an eye” mantra, but today, after seeing what Grace had done to Katie, well, she understood why people believed it. She pushed the ugly thoughts out of her head then processed the scene. For the most part she did not find anything out of the ordinary. There were small cuts on Grace’s hands, most likely from slipping while she stabbed Katie. Her knuckles were also red, indicating that at some point in time she had beaten Katie with her fists. She was about to stand up and move on when she noticed a small clump of blonde hair. The hair made her think of the hair they’d found at Hunter’s crime scene. They still hadn’t received a DNA match from it.
When they’d first found out Grace was the one to take Katie, well, she thought the blonde hair was possibly planted to throw them off track. Now she wondered. Could Grace have had a partner? She bagged the hair for analysis and handed it to one of the techs.
“Kyle, I want this processed immediately,” she ordered. “Yes ma’am,” he replied then rushed off.
Rebecca nodded her thanks then made her way over to the white tile wall where Katie had been chained.
Katie woke up late in the evening. Brandon’s strong hand gripped hers. His forehead rested gently on the edge of her bed. As much as she savored the contact, he was holding it far too tightly. “Ow,” she moaned.
Brandon woke with a start. “Katie,” he murmured, his voice thick with sleep.
“My hand,” she winced.
“Oh, I’m so sorry honey. I didn’t realize.” He loosened his grip. “Is that better?”
She nodded. “How long?” Her throat was dry and itchy. “About six hours. Do you need anything?”
“Water,” she croaked.
Brandon nodded then poured a small cup of water from a pitcher.
Katie tried to push herself up from the bed, but was unfortunately too weak to succeed. Her body was finally feeling the effects of her ordeal.
“Here, let me.” Brandon put an arm behind her back and slowly sat her up. “Better?”
“Yes, thank you,” she replied then took a sip of the water.
The cool liquid did wonders to relieve her parched throat. “Would you like me to raise the bed up?” Brandon asked.
Katie nodded then emptied her glass. “More please.” She held the cup towards Brandon.
“Of course, love,” he replied, refilling her glass.
Several minutes and cups of water later, Katie was beginning to feel like a human again. She glanced at Brandon. He looked like crap. His eyes were bloodshot and his skin was slightly red and puffy. He looked like he’d been crying. Still, he probably looked ten times better than she did.
“You look tired,” she commented. “I’m fine, I promise,” he replied.
“You should go get some sleep.” She didn’t want him to leave, but he needed his rest.
“It’s okay. I want to stay with you. I need to stay with you,” he sobbed.
A tear escaped Katie’s eye. She hated to see him sad like this. She reached over and wiped his face. “Please don’t cry.
Everything is fine. I’m here, I’m alive. We’ll work everything else out,” she whispered.
“Oh Katie, I’m so sorry. I should’ve found all this out sooner.” He laid his head in her lap.
Katie carefully ran her fingers through his hair. “Have I ever told you how soft your hair is?” she asked. She needed to change the subject. Otherwise she’d have a breakdown.
Brandon shook his head. “No. I don’t think you have.” “Well it’s very soft. I love running my fingers through it.
You must tell me your secret. My hair never looks or feels as good as yours does.”
Brandon lifted his head then carefully ran his fingers through her hair. “Your hair is perfect and much softer than mine.” He smiled and kissed her cheek.
Katie desperately wanted to kiss him, but her lips were cracked and dry. She knew it would be a less than pleasurable experience for him. “Write me an IOU for a kiss. My lips feel grody right now.”
Brandon shook his head then gave her a soft kiss on the lips. “They feel wonderful to me,” he whispered against her mouth. “I could kiss them forever. Unless of course it hurts you.”
Katie savored the contact. It was a little uncomfortable, but the warmth she felt inside was worth the discomfort. “As long as you don’t kiss too hard, I’ll be fine.”
“Well, in that case…” He grinned and gave her another kiss. A quiet knock interrupted their intimate moment. “Ugh. To be continued,” Brandon said reluctantly then got up and opened the door.
“Oh my goodness, Katie,” Danielle Quinn said as she crossed the room.
“Mom, don’t worry. I look worse than I feel,” she lied. Right now she felt like hell. She was sure she looked like it too.
“Are you okay?” Mark Quinn asked once he approached the bed.
“I’ve been better, but I’ll be fine soon. I promise.” She assured them.
“Please tell me you caught the monster that did this to my daughter,” Mark said, directing his attention to Brandon.
“We did. She’s dead,” Brandon stated flatly.
Mark nodded then returned his attention to his daughter. “Katie, once you’re ready to travel, we’ll take you home.
Everything will be fine.”
“I appreciate the gesture Dad, but I am home. I’d like to stay here. Of course you’re welcome to stay as long as you want,” Katie said.
“Yes, I can make up the guest room for you,” Brandon agreed. “We have plenty of space.”
Danielle smiled through her tears. “So, you’re coming back to Columbia?”
“Yes. I turned in my letter of resignation to The Times a few days ago. I had a wonderful time writing there, but my place is here.” She declared.
Brandon gave Katie’s hand a soft squeeze. “Well I’ll give you all some time. I’m just going to grab a cup of coffee then I’ll be back.” He smiled then left the room.
“Are you sure you want to leave the paper?” Mark asked once the door was closed. “You know we love Brandon, but The Times was your dream. We don’t want to see you give that up.”
“I’ll tell you what I told Brandon last week. The Times was one of my dreams. I’ve experienced it and now it’s time to pursue others. Don’t worry, I’m not moving back here just to be with Brandon. He is a big part of why I’m coming, but he’s not the only reason,” Katie assured them. She felt her energy waning.
“Good,” Mark stated. “You look tired, sweetheart. Close your eyes and get some rest. We’ll be back later.”
Katie yawned then leaned back in bed. “Would you send Brandon back in please?”
Brandon’s phone rang just as he entered the cafeteria. “Hughes,” he answered as he ordered and paid for a large coffee.
“Hey Brandon, it’s Rebecca.”
“Hey, are you still at the crime scene?”
“No, I’m back at the lab. I’ve been here for a few hours now. How’s Katie doing? Are you with her?”
“She’s okay. Her parents are with her right now. I’m just getting some coffee then I’ll head back in. Why? Is something up?”
“Well we got the DNA results for the hair from Hunter’s crime scene. It’s a familial match to Grace.”
Brandon’s face went white. “So, there’s someone else out there looking for Katie?”
“Yeah, I think so. I think we may have only had half of the story. I’m looking into the crash that killed her sister. I’ll call you back once I get results. Just do me a favor and stay with her until I figure this out.”
“Of course. Thanks Rebecca,” he replied then hung up the phone. He dashed from the cafeteria, forgetting all about his coffee.
Katie was dozing off to sleep when her door opened. “Hey Brandon. Want to lie down with me?” she murmured then opened her eyes. She was shocked at what she saw. “Nicole, what are you doing here?”
Nicole looked different. Her hair was a mess and she had a demented smile on her face. “I knew she wouldn’t get the job done right. She always focused too much on the torture and not enough on the killing.”
“Nicole, what are you talking about?” The rapid bleep of the monitor indicated her rising heart rate. Katie pushed down on the nurse call button.
“The button’s useless if they can’t get in.” Nicole grinned then slid a chair underneath the door handle.
Katie felt the panic rise within her. No, focus. You can’t panic now. Think of something. Her mind was still processing her options when Nicole pulled a small syringe from her pocket and inserted it into her IV.
“This will work perfectly. It’ll make your death look natural, like a heart attack. Given your current state, a heart attack from shock won’t surprise anyone,” Nicole sneered then inserted the needle.
Acting on pure instinct, Katie ripped the IV from her arm. Blood spurted all over her body and sheets. Katie ignored the pain in her arm and quickly slid off the bed and made her way towards the door. Nicole caught her when she was about halfway across the room.
Katie screamed then kicked hard. She felt her foot make contact with Nicole a few times, but did she not know where. She kicked until finally, Nicole’s grasp loosened. It was just enough for her to wiggle free and pull the chair from the door. Seconds later, Brandon along with her parents and several of the hospital staff entered the room. Katie’s dad quickly pulled her out of the room and away from danger. The last thing she saw was Nicole’s maniacal face as she raised the syringe and ran towards Brandon. Then there was the loud crack of a shot.
Rebecca walked down the hall to Katie’s new room. She held a thick file in her hand. It had taken her too long to find the information Brandon needed to help Katie, but Katie was a fighter and true to her character, she had kicked some major butt to survive.
The file contained the dark story of the White sisters. It was a sad tale. Had the women not taken so many innocent lives, Rebecca might have been able to summon the ability to sympathize with them. In all honesty, Laura—a.k.a. Grace—was the chief protagonist of the two. While Angela—a.k.a. Nicole—had been the victim of rape, it was Laura who’d lost control. Granted, Angela had suffered horribly, but there were signs that she was recovering from her ordeal.
Rebecca had researched their past and found that Angela had sought out and received counseling. The investigation into the crime had been thorough to say the least, but it was thorough by the wrong people. Hunter’s legal team had torn Angela’s past apart. They burned her in the media, taking completely innocent interactions and turning them into signs of her “delusional and dishonest nature,” as they had put it. The whole thing made Rebecca sick. Eventually Angela dropped the charges and tried to move on with her life. She was in the process of transferring schools when the “car accident” happened.
Between the evidence Rebecca found on Laura’s computer and the profile Katie had provided, she’d been able to deduce the rest. Laura had convinced Angela that she deserved justice. Laura had already been fixated on Katie before the murders began. Katie didn’t know it, but she had actually taken over Angela’s spot on the MU Student News when she arrived in Missouri; Angela had resigned due to illness several months before Katie’s arrival. Katie had been far more successful story wise than Angela had been. In Laura’s twisted mind, this translated to Katie being some sort of power hungry woman hell bent on destroying others. Rebecca hypothesized that Laura knew about the rape because she’d seen it happen. Unfortunately, that was a detail they’d never know the true answer to.
After Laura convinced Angela to fake her death, the two women murdered a woman who looked shockingly like Angela. They’d pushed the car off a cliff, then for good measure, set it on fire. The remains were indistinguishable. Laura used her hacking skills to substitute the dead woman’s dental records for Angela’s. After that, Angela had extensive plastic surgery and became Nicole Irvine. Nicole was responsible for watching Katie while she was in New York while Laura did the killings on March 27th of every year. March 27th was the date of Angela’s rape. Nicole was the one that set the fire at Katie’s apartment in New York. She was also the one who murdered Hunter.
Rebecca had no idea why Laura turned out the way she did.
The girl’s childhood was normal for the most part. The parents were loving and supportive. Angela was a strong, successful woman despite what had happened to her. On the other hand, Laura had been a troublemaker from an early age. It was one of those cases where someone was just born bad. Angela’s mind was still recovering when Laura suggested the scheme. From then on, the two worked side by side to destroy Katie. Unfortunately for them, Katie was stronger, more driven than them. She lived for something more than revenge.
Rebecca placed the file in her bag. She would give it to Brandon and Katie later when they were alone. She knew they would both want answers eventually. For now though, she wanted to just enjoy the fact that Katie was alive and safe.
Rebecca gave a soft knock on the door then walked in. Katie was sitting up in bed, and despite the events of the last twenty-four hours, smiling. Brandon sat in a chair to her right while her parents occupied two chairs on the opposite side.
“I must say Katie, Chuck Norris has nothing on you.” Rebecca smiled then sat at the foot of the bed.
Katie grinned. “Yeah, I could eat him for lunch.” She chuckled then leaned in and gave Rebecca a tight hug. “I’m glad you’re here.”
“Yeah, well, junior has been doing jumping jacks in my belly for the last few hours. I think it’s getting close to that time. I figured I’d better be at the hospital when it happens,” she quipped.
“Isn’t it a little early?”
“Girl, look at me. This kid has no place left to grow.
Besides, it’s only a couple of weeks. It’ll be fine.” “But I never had a chance to paint the nursery.”
“Oh don’t worry about that. Callum finally got off his butt and took care of it. He needed something to do while I was… working.” She mumbled the last part of her statement. Truthfully, Callum had taken on the job the moment Brandon had left to get Katie. She knew Callum would never admit it, but it scared the crap out of him every time Brandon went out on a raid.
Katie was about to respond when another knock sounded on her door. “Ugh, Rebecca order some pizza and get some beer. It appears we’re having a party.”
Rebecca laughed then stood up. “Do you want Emo’s or Shakespeare’s?”
“Shakespeare’s. A large one with pepperoni, sausage, onions, and bacon.” Katie ordered.
“Okay. I’ll be back with the pizza. No promises on the beer though.” As she walked towards the door she nearly ran into the man who had just entered. “Dr. Canton, it’s a pleasure to see you.” Rebecca said.
“Likewise, Dr. Hughes.”
Rebecca smiled at the man. “Well, how about we give these two some space,” Rebecca said then ushered Katie’s parents and Brandon out the door. “Brandon, you can help me smuggle in some beer.”
“Will you be okay, Katie?” Brandon asked.
“Of course.” She smiled. “Now go get me some food please. I’m starving.”
Rebecca nodded then left the room, closing the door behind her.
Katie looked nervously at Dr. Canton. Brandon had explained who he was and why he was coming after he’d finished with Nicole’s body. Katie knew she needed the help to process these things, but she dreaded speaking about it. Apparently Dr.
Canton could read the fear on her face.
“There’s no need to worry, Katie. I’m not here to cause you pain. I’m here to help. We’ll take this as slow or as fast as you’d like.” He assured her.
“Can I ask you a question, Doctor?” “You can ask me anything you want.”
“If I get this all off my chest now will I avoid any nightmares? Because I don’t think I can handle seeing their faces again.”
“Katie,” he leaned forward in his chair and lightly grasped her hand, “there’s no exact science as to how the mind copes with things like this. Everyone is different. But know this: you have a strong support group around you. You’re not alone, which makes you a very lucky woman. I know you don’t feel like that now, but it’s true.”
“Thank you, sir. And I do feel lucky. If it weren’t for my friends I probably wouldn’t be talking to you right now.”
Dr. Canton nodded. “Now, would you like to talk about what happened? If not we can save it for another day.”
A tear slid down Katie’s face. “I’m afraid. I shouldn’t be.
The danger is gone now but I’m still afraid.”
“There’s nothing wrong with a little fear, Katie. You’ve been through quite an ordeal. Most people wouldn’t have survived what you’ve been through. But don’t let that fear overwhelm you. I’m not going to lie, you have a tough road ahead of you—both physically and emotionally—but like I said, you have a strong support group around you. Lean on them when you need it. They’ll hold you up. Just don’t try to do this alone.”
Katie took a deep breath. His statement made sense. Still, the fear persisted. “Dr. Canton, one thing you need to know about me is I like facts. I’m sure you’re familiar with my career.” He nodded in return. “I think, with your help, if we put all the facts on the table and work through them, I can move past this faster.”
“Okay, whatever you need.” “Can you spare some time?”
“I’m here for as long as you need, Katie.” He smiled. “Thank you,” Katie said then took a deep breath and began her story.