The Obsession Page 22


“Sorry, Elavil. Crap, Carson, I don’t know the address.”

She called it out while tears ran down her cheeks, mixed with sweat.

“Mama, Mama, please!”

“No, she’s not awake, she’s not moving. Her daughter’s doing CPR. I-I-I don’t know. Maybe, um, like forty.”

“She’s thirty-seven.” Naomi shouted it. “Just hurry.”

“They’re coming.” Anson dropped down beside her, hesitated, then patted Naomi’s shoulder. “She—the operator—she said they were on the way. They’re coming.”

He swallowed, moistened his lips, then touched his fingers to Susan’s hand.

It felt . . . soft and cold. Soft like he could push his fingers through it. Cold like it had lain outside in the winter air.

“Um, oh jeez, Carson. Ah, man, look, hey.” He kept one hand on Susan’s, put his other on Naomi’s shoulder again. “She’s cold, man. I think . . . I think she’s dead.”

“No, no, no, no.” Naomi laid her mouth on her mother’s, blew in her breath, willed her to breathe back.

But there was nothing there. Like the pictures of the women in her father’s cellar, there was nothing left in the eyes but death.

She sat back. She didn’t weep, not yet, but smoothed back her mother’s hair. There was no weight pressing on her chest, no churning in her belly. There was, as in her mother’s eyes, nothing.

She remembered the feeling—the same as when she’d swum through the air toward the sheriff’s office on that hot summer dawn.

In shock, she thought. She was in shock. And her mother was dead.

She heard the bell, got slowly to her feet. “I need to go let them in. Don’t leave her alone.”

“Okay. I’ll, um . . . Okay.”

She walked out—sort of like sleepwalking to Anson’s eyes. He looked back at the dead woman.

They wouldn’t get back to school in thirty.


She wore the black dress to her mother’s funeral. She’d never been to a funeral before, and this was more a memorial as there would be no burial.

Seth sat down with her and Mason to talk about that. Did they want to take their mother back to Pine Meadows to bury her?

No, no, no.

Did they want to find a cemetery in New York?

It surprised her how firm Mason had been. No cemetery here either. If she’d been happy in New York, she’d still be alive.

So they’d had her cremated, and in the spring, they’d rent a boat and send her ashes to the air and the sea.

There were tears, of course, but for Naomi they came from rage as much as grief.

She had to talk to the police. For the second time in her life, the police came to her home, went through her home, asked questions.

“I’m Detective Rossini. I’m so sorry for your loss. I know this is a very difficult time, but I have some questions. Can I come in, talk to you?”

Naomi knew that some cops on TV and in the movies were female and pretty, but she’d assumed that was mostly made up. But Rossini looked like she could play a detective on TV.


She’d gone to her room because she didn’t know what else to do, not with all the police, with Seth and Harry talking to them. And with her mother . . .

Rossini came in, sat on the side of the bed, facing Naomi, who sat in her desk chair with her knees folded up to her chin.

“Can you tell me why you came home today, why you and your friend weren’t in school?”

“We got a pass to come home, get my camera. We work on the school newspaper. I’m supposed to take pictures of rehearsal—the drama club. Is he still here? Is Chaffins—Anson—here?”

“My partner already talked to him. We had him taken back to school.”

“He’ll tell everybody.” Naomi pressed her face to her knees. “He’ll tell everybody about my mother.”

“I’m sorry, Naomi. Can you tell me what happened when you got home?”

“Chaffins wanted a Coke, so I told him to go get a couple of them while I went up for my camera. And Kong—our dog—Kong was outside my mother’s room. He kept whining. He usually stays in Mason’s room or in the courtyard when we’re at school, but . . . Her door was closed, and I opened it. I thought . . . I thought she was sleeping or not feeling well. I couldn’t wake her up, and I saw the pills. I mean the empty bottle. Chaffins came upstairs, and I told him to call nine-one-one. I tried CPR. We took a class, and I knew how. I tried, but I couldn’t make her breathe.”

“She was on the bed when you went in.”

“I tried to get her up, to wake her up enough to walk. If she’d taken too many pills, I could make her walk, and get her to the hospital.”

“She’d done that before? Taken too many pills?”

Naomi just nodded with her face pressed against her knees.

“When did you see her last, before you came home from school?”

“This morning. Harry fixed breakfast, but she didn’t come down for it. I went upstairs, and she was just getting up. She seemed fine. She said she had some errands to run before she went to work, and she’d get breakfast later. She said, ‘Have a good day at school.’”

She looked up then. “My brother. My brother, Mason.”

“Your uncle’s gone to the school to get him. Don’t worry.”

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