The Obsession Page 110

“I drove all over hell and back last night. Just driving the road, looking for her, for . . . something. With my baseball bat and my .32.”

“Jesus, Loo. You should’ve called me.”

“I nearly did.” She turned her hand over, linked her fingers with his. “Who else do I call when I hit a wall? Not that I often hit one I can’t bust through on my own. You’ll find that out if you stick with this one,” she said to Naomi. “If you hit that wall or your back’s to one, you want this one with you.”

“Come on, Loo.”

“She should know you’re not just a pretty face.”

“I’ve seen prettier. I’ve had prettier,” Naomi added, and earned that bark of laughter as she’d hoped. “You need some art on the walls in here, Loo.”

“It’s a bar.”

“It’s a good bar. I’m not talking frilly, fussy, fern-bar art. There’s one coming in of the Wreckers—they have to buy that from me. But I’ve got one of Xander and Tag, a sunrise silhouette that I punched up so their blue eyes stand out. It’d work in here, and I’ll give it to you if you like it. It’d be exposure for me.”

“You’re not going to put me up on the wall.”

Loo arched those eyebrows again. “I will if I like it. It’s my bar.”

“It’s half mine.”

“So I’ll hang it in my half.” She gave his hand a squeeze, then a light slap, then went back to her coffee. “You’ve settled my nerves, both of you, and I’m grateful.”

“You should get out of here. We’ll go have lunch or something.”

Smiling a little, Loo shook her head at Xander. “When I’m this worked up I clean, but I’ll finish up here calmer than I was. If you hear anything from your brother, anything about where she is, you need to let me know.”

“I will.”

“All right. Go on now, and take this dog before I end up keeping him for myself. I’m all right now.”

“If you need me for anything, you call me.”

“I will. I’m going to hope I hear they found her, and she’s okay. I’m going to hold on to that.”

When they left her, she’d gone back to her mopping.

Since she’d decided to believe Mason would stay at least overnight, Naomi had Xander take her by the market—grateful they had limited Sunday hours. She picked up what she needed for one of his favorite meals.

Every local in the market had something to say about Donna, or would stop Xander to ask what he knew. She didn’t take a clear, easy breath until they were outside again.

“I should’ve known that, and made do with what I had at home.” She sat back in the seat, stomach knotted, headache brewing. “And it had to be harder on you than me. All the talk,” she added. “The questions, the speculation.”

“Everyone who lives here knows her, so they’re worried.”

“Maybe Mason will have something, anything, to add. I know he’s my brother, Xander, but he really is ridiculously smart. He notices everything, forgets nothing, and he’s studied for what he’s doing since he was a kid. I caught him once—he wasn’t quite fast enough to block my view of what he was looking at on his computer. Serial killers. I was so mad, so outraged that he’d do that, read about them. He just said he needed to know; the more he knew, the better he could deal with it.”

“It sounds right to me.”

“It didn’t to me. Why couldn’t we just be normal, live like everybody else? I was doing everything I could to be like everybody else, going to football games, working on the yearbook committee and the school newspaper, meeting friends for pizza, and he’s studying the pathology of serial killers, thrill killers, spree killers. Victimology and forensic countermeasures.”

“It sounds like you’ve read some yourself.”

“Some because he was determined to make it his life’s work, but . . . He’s gone back to West Virginia. He’s gone to see our father in prison. More than once.”

“That bothers you.”

“It did. Maybe it still does, a little, but I had to accept he wasn’t going to put it behind him.”

Better than therapy, she realized. Better this talking to a . . . friend wasn’t quite right, and yet he was. He was her friend. It soothed rather than stirred to say what was in her mind and heart to someone who stood as her friend.

“Mason? He confronts it, and tries to understand it, so he can stop the next. I know that, and can still wish he’d found another way to save lives. Become a doctor—another kind of doctor.”

“Has he saved lives?”

“He has. Did you hear about that man who was taking young boys—in Virginia? He’d taken five over a three-year period, killed two of them and dumped their bodies in a wooded area along a hiking trail.”

“They called him the Appalachian Killer.”

“Mason hates it when the press gives them names. But yes. He was part of the team that identified him, tracked him, stopped him, and saved the lives of the three boys he had locked in his basement. He saves lives, and to do it, he needs to understand the kind of mind that would take young boys, torture them, keep them caged up like animals, then kill them.”

When Xander pulled up at the house, she got out. “I’m proud of him, so I have to accept that he lives a lot of his life in a dark place.”

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