The Obsession Page 11

“Is he a homosexual?”

Something rumbled in Seth’s chest. “Why yes, he is.”

“But a nice one, like you.”

“I think so, but you’ll judge for yourself.”

“I’m supposed to start back to school soon. Mason, too.”

“You’ll go to school in D.C. Is that all right with you?”

Relief nearly made her faint again, so she only nodded. “I don’t want to be here anymore. Miss Lettie, she’s been real nice. And Deputy Wayne. And the sheriff, too. He gave me his number so I could call if I needed. But I don’t want to be here anymore.”

“As soon as we can, we won’t be.”

“I don’t want to see Daddy. I don’t want to see him. I know that’s bad, but—”

He drew her back. “It’s not bad, and don’t ever think that. You don’t have to see him if you don’t want to.”

“Will you tell Mama? She’s going to want me to, me and Mason. I don’t want to see him. He didn’t see me. Can we go to Washington, D.C., now?”

He cradled her again. “I’m working on it.”

It took more than a week, though they didn’t spend even one night at Miss Lettie’s. The reporters came—the sheriff was right on that. And they came in herds and packs, with big vans and TV cameras. They shouted questions and swarmed any time someone went outside.

No one remembered her birthday, but she didn’t care. She wanted to forget it herself.

They ended up in a house, not nearly so nice as Miss Lettie’s, outside Morgantown. And FBI people stayed there, too, because of the reporters, and because there had already been threats.

She heard one of the FBI people talking about it, and how they were moving her father, too, to somewhere else.

She heard a lot, because she listened.

Mama arguing with Uncle Seth about going to D.C., about not taking the children to see their father. But her uncle kept his promise. When her mother went to see her father, she went with the FBI lady.

The second time she went, she came back and took the pills. And slept more than twelve hours.

She heard her uncle talking to Harry about how they’d change things around so three more people could live in their house in Georgetown. She did like Harry—Harrison (like Indiana Jones) Dobbs. Though it had surprised and puzzled her that he wasn’t white. Not exactly black either. He was like the caramel she liked so much on ice cream when she’d earned a special treat.

He was really tall and had blue eyes that seemed so special against the caramel. He was a chef, which he told her with a wink was a fancy cook. Though she’d never known a man who knew his way around a kitchen, Harry made dinner every night. Food she’d never heard of, much less tasted.

It was like a movie again, such pretty food.

They bought a Nintendo for Mason, and got her and Mama some new clothes. She thought she could stay right there in the not-so-nice house if Harry and Seth stayed, too.

But one night, late, on a day her mother had gone to visit Daddy, she heard the argument. She hated when her uncle and her mother argued. It stirred fear that they’d make him go away again.

“I can’t just pick up and leave, take the children away. They’re Tom’s children.”

“He’s never getting out of prison, Susie. Are you going to drag those kids to visiting days? Are you going to put them through that?”

“He’s their father.”

“He’s a fucking monster.”

“Don’t use that language.”

“A fucking monster, deal with it. Those kids need you, Susie, so stand up for them. He doesn’t deserve a minute of your time.”

“I took vows. Love, honor, obey.”

“So did he, but he broke them. Jesus Christ, he raped, tortured, killed over twenty women—and that’s what he’s confessed to. Bragged about, for God’s sake. Over twenty young girls. He’d come to your bed after he was done with them.”

“Stop it! Stop it! Do you want me to say he did those things? He did those terrible things? How can I live with it, Seth? How can I live with it?”

“Because you have two children who need you. I’m going to help you, Susie. We’re going to get away from here where you and the kids feel safe. You, and they, are going to get counseling. They’re going to go to good schools. Don’t put me in the position of telling you what to do, the way he did. I will for now, if I have to, to protect you and the kids. But I’m asking you to remember who you used to be, before him. You had a spine and plans, and a light.”

“Don’t you understand?” That terrible plea in her mother’s voice, that awful rawness, like a cut that wouldn’t heal. “If I go, I’m saying it all happened.”

“It did happen. He’s admitted it.”

“They made him.”

“Stop it. Just stop it. Your own daughter, your own baby saw what he did.”

“She imagined—”

“Stop. Susie, stop.”

“I can’t just . . . How could I not have known? How could I have lived with him nearly half my life and not known? The reporters, they shout that at me.”

“Screw the reporters. We’re leaving tomorrow. God, where’s your anger, Suze? Where’s your anger for what he did, what he is, what he put you and your kids through? What Naomi went through? I hope to hell you find it, but until you do, you’re going to have to trust me. This is the best thing. We can go tomorrow, and you can start building a life for yourself and the kids.”

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