The Obsession Page 140

“For now, yeah. I’m a reporter.”

“Oh.” Her eyes went sad and blank.

“Sorry.” Immediately he coated himself in sympathy. “I guess you knew the . . . Donna Lanier. She worked here.”


“I’m really sorry. If there’s anything you want to say, want me to write about her—”

“No. No, thanks. Enjoy your Coke.”

When she scurried away, he had to hide the smile.

Maybe he’d snatch her up after all. Maybe he’d just circle back for her, then make Naomi watch while he did the little bitch with her tight ass and tight tits.

Can’t save this one, he imagined saying. Not like Ashley this time. And when I’m done with her, when I’m done with you, I’m going to pay your good friend Ashley a visit, too. Finish what your old man couldn’t.

He worked right through the calzone, putting together another piece on spec, and listening to the chatter around him.

Small towns, the same everywhere, he thought. If you wanted to know what went on, you just had to sit in the same place long enough.

He learned the mechanic was moving in with the photographer, into the big house on Point Bluff. He learned people were scared, and some of them impatient with the police.

Why hadn’t they caught him? they asked.

Because he’s smarter, better, more than they are, he wanted to answer.

He learned that some people speculated the killer lived in the national forest, like a survivalist.

And thought: No. He’s sitting right here, asshole.

He heard that Naomi’s new fuck buddy was playing at the bar on Friday night.

So he began to make his plans.

Lucas Spinner.” Mason tapped the photo on the kitchen counter again. “You’re sure, no bells?”

“Not even a muffled gong.” But she studied the face—young, a lot of disheveled brown hair, a beard that needed shaping. “Why do you keep coming back to him?”

“He had press credentials, a small paper in Ohio, visited Bowes six times between July 2003 and August 2004. Corresponded with him for another eighteen months afterward. Then he’s reported missing, presumed dead while covering a brush fire in California in 2006.”

“Well, if he’s dead—”

“Presumed,” Mason qualified. “And shortly after, correspondence begins between Bowes and a Brent Stevens, initially with a Queens return address and postmark. But there’s no Brent Stevens from Queens during that time period. And I’ve read the correspondence, Naomi. I’d swear the same person wrote Stevens’s and Spinner’s letters. There’s an attempt to change it up, but the syntax, the terminology. We’re having an expert analyze the letters.”

“If they’re the same person, you think this is the man you’re looking for.” She picked up Spinner’s photo again.

“Some of Stevens’s letters were postmarked from areas you were in, and the timing jibes. Then he drops off the grid. It all stops.”

“And that worries you.”

“Because it wouldn’t stop. He’s found another way to communicate. Smuggled cell phone, smuggled snail mail. Somebody looking the other way when Bowes gets his supervised computer use. It happens.”

“Maybe without all the hair, the beard.” Naomi shook her head. “I’m going to scan this onto my computer, work on it. I’ll work on it while you’re flying to West Virginia. That way if I have any luck, you’ll be right there with Bowes. You could push on it.”

“He’d be older now. Remember that, too.”

“You said he blends. He wouldn’t blend with the hair and the beard, so let me work on seeing him without them. First thing tomorrow,” she promised. “We need to get going. I promise you’ll have a good time.”

While she checked the locks on the back door and got Tag a rawhide bone to keep him busy, Mason checked his watch.

“A bar, a rock band, a Friday night. Yeah, I’ll have a good time, but only a couple hours, max. We’re leaving at seven thirty tomorrow morning.”

“Will you let me know when you’re on your way back? After you’ve talked to him?”

“I’ll text you. I’ll call if there’s anything you need to know. You do the same,” he added when she set the alarm, stepped outside.

“We haven’t done this in a long time. Gone to a bar together.”

“My twenty-first birthday, you flew home to surprise me.”

“Not since then?”

“Not since. We went to the bar at the Spot, so I had my first legal drink with you, Seth, and Harry, then you took me to that weird little place.”

“The Hole in the Wall, in Chelsea. And that girl hit on you.”

“I might’ve hit back, but I had a date.”

Laughing, Naomi closed her eyes, let the wind blow over her face as Mason drove. “Let’s make a pact. Once a year, wherever we are, we meet somewhere and have a drink in a bar. Even when we’re a hundred and ten.”

He held out his hand, pinky crooked. She hooked hers with it. “Even when you’re married with five kids,” he warned.

She snorted. “That’ll be the day.”

Yes, he thought. Yes, it will.

He saw her come in. He’d been watching, waiting, and felt a tightening in his loins when she stepped into the bar. Pale yellow shirt, snug jeans.

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