The Obsession Page 95

“This is a hell of a nice kitchen.” Hat tipped back, Sam stood, at ease, looking around. “And a view that doesn’t quit.”

When she opened the accordion doors, he shook his head. “Doesn’t that beat all? Did you come up with this, or did Kevin?”


“They fold right back out of the way, just open it all up. You couldn’t have a prettier situation here.”

She took one of the spring chairs while Tag poked his nose to Sam’s knee.

“I saw you at the service,” Sam began. “It was good of you to go. I know you didn’t know her, and what you did know wasn’t especially friendly.”

“I’m sorry for what happened to her.”

“We all are.” He shifted, turning from the view so his gaze met hers. “I wouldn’t be doing my job, Naomi, if I hadn’t gotten some background on the person who found her body.”

“No. I should have told you myself. I didn’t. I wanted to believe you wouldn’t look, and no one would know.”

“Is that why you changed your name?”

“It’s my mother’s maiden name, my uncle’s name. He raised us after . . . They took us in, my mother, my brother, and me, after my father was arrested.”

“You were instrumental in that arrest.”


“That’s about as hard on a young girl as anything could be. I’m not going to ask you about that, Naomi. I know the case, and if I want to know more, it’s easy enough. I’m going to ask you if you’re in contact with your father.”

“No. I haven’t spoken or communicated with him since that night.”

“You never went to see him?”

“No. My mother did, and ended up swallowing a bottle of pills. She loved him, or he had a hold over her. Maybe it’s the same thing.”

“Has he tried to contact you?”


For a moment, Sam said nothing. “I’m sorry to add to things, but it must have struck you. The similarities. The binding, the wounds, what was done to her, the way she was killed.”

“Yes. But he’s in prison, on the other side of the country. And the terrible reality is, others rape and kill and torture. Others do what he did.”

“That’s true.”

“But I’m here, and I found her. Like I found Ashley. Only I found Ashley in time. I’m here, and Marla was raped and killed and tortured the way my father liked to rape and kill and torture. So you have to look at me.”

“Even if I did, I know you didn’t take her, or hold her for two days, and do what was done to her. Even if I did, you were with Xander at times you’d have needed to be with her. I’ve known Xander all his life and sure as hell don’t believe he’d be party to something like this. I don’t believe you would either.”

She should be grateful for that; she should be relieved. Yet she couldn’t find the energy for either.

“But you wondered. When you found out who I was, you had to wonder. Others will, too. And some of them will think, well, Blood tells. It’s blood that ties us together, makes us who we are. Her father’s a psychopath. What does that make her?”

“I won’t tell you I didn’t wonder. That’s part of my job. I wondered for about ten seconds because I’m small town, that’s a fact, but I’m good at my job. I came here to ask you if you’re in contact with your father, or if he’s in contact with you, on the slim possibility what happened here is connected.”

“He didn’t even look at me. That morning, in the police station back in West Virginia, when they brought him in.”

She could still see it, in minute and perfect detail, down to the sun hitting the water in the water fountain, the dust motes in the air.

“I came out of the room where they had me waiting. I just came out for a minute, and they were bringing him in, in handcuffs. And he looked right through me, like I wasn’t there. I think I was never there for him, not really.”

“You’ve moved around a lot in the last few years.”

“I made it part of my job. Our uncles shielded us as much as they could from the press, the talk, the stares, the anger. They uprooted their lives for us. But the shield didn’t always hold. Every few years, he bargains something, some privilege, something, for the location of another body. It brings it all back—the stories on TV, online, the talk. My brother says it’s what he wants more than whatever privilege he’s thought up, and I believe that, too. Moving around means you’re not in one place long enough for anyone to notice you, or not very much.”

“You bought this house.”

“I thought I could get away with it. I just fell for it, and convinced myself that I could have this—a real home, a quiet place—and no one would ever know. If I’d walked another way that day, if someone else had found Marla, maybe, but I didn’t walk another way. I’ve got no reason to tell anyone about this.”

When she turned her head to meet his eyes again, Sam gave her hand a pat. “It’s yours to tell or not.”

She wanted relief but couldn’t feel it. Couldn’t feel. “Thank you.”

“It’s not a favor. I got background, that was an official act. I don’t go around gossiping on people’s private business. I needed to ask you the questions I did. Now we can put it away.”

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