The Obsession Page 115

She didn’t see him through the main opening of the garage, so she walked inside the noise, saw one of his crew plugging coins in the soda machine.

“Is Xander around?”

“Yeah, sure. Back in the machine shop—straight back, to the right. Can’t miss.”


She picked her way through, found she couldn’t miss.

He sat on a stool behind an engine on a stand, a wrench in his grease-smeared hands.

“Bearings shot to shit, crankshaft shot to shit.”

He took off another part, scowled at it, tossed it into a plastic tray with a dismissing thump. “Wonders why it’s got rod knock.”


She spoke quietly, but he heard her voice over the clanging, the thumping, the music. And the instant he saw her face, grief clouded his eyes.

“Ah, hell.”

“I’m sorry, I’m so sorry.”

She started toward him, hands out, but he shoved back on the stool and held his own up. “Don’t. I’ve got grease all over me.”

“It doesn’t matter.”

“It does.” With sharp, angry moves, he snatched up a rag, rubbed it over his forearms, his hands. Tossed it down again, walked to a small, wall-hung sink that had seen its share of action.

With his back to her, he poured some sort of powder on his hands, dry-scrubbed them with a brush. “Where did they find her?”

“I’m not sure, I’m sorry. I just know the chief called Mason about a half hour ago and said they had. In a wooded area, was all he’d say. He was in a hurry to get there. I didn’t want you to hear—just hear.”

He nodded, kept scrubbing. “I knew it last night. If they hadn’t found her by last night . . . but until they do, you have to figure there’s a chance.”

He worked the powder up to his forearms, then turned on the water. “I need to tell Loo.”

Not the process, not procedure. And the hell with that. “Do you want me to go with you?”

“Not this time.”

He yanked paper towels out of a wall unit, dried off, tossed them in a big, widemouthed trash can.

“They have to notify her next of kin. I don’t know how long before they can.”

“Loo won’t want to talk to anybody. She won’t get in the way of that.”

“I’m so sorry, Xander. I wish there were something I could do.”

“You did it. You came to tell me.”

When she stepped toward him again, he looked at his hands.

“They’re clean enough,” she said, and moved into him.

“I guess they’ll do.” He got a grip on her, a tight one, held her in silence while the workday banged around them.

“Stay with Loo as long as you need, as long as she needs. But would you let me know if you’re staying in town?”

“I’ll be coming out, but I don’t know when. If Kevin and the crew leave before I get there, before your brother gets back, stay home.” He drew her away. “Stay inside, and lock everything. Tell me you’ll do that.”

“I will. Don’t worry about me, just take care of Loo.”

“I’ll do that. I have to deal with some things here, get some coverage, then I’ll do that.”

When she got home she closed herself in her temporary office so she didn’t have to talk to Kevin or any of the crew, so they couldn’t sense what she knew.

Time dragged while she tried to lose herself in work. Feeling closed in, restless, she gave it up and took the dog out in the narrow backyard, thrilled him with a session of fetch the ball.

She saw Kevin start down the deck steps, and the expression on his face told her the news had gotten out.

“Xander called me. Ah, he said he’d be here within the hour, and look, Naomi, I’m staying until he gets here, or your brother does. I’ll sit out in the damn truck if you—”

She went with instinct, stepped up to hug him.

“What the hell’s happening? Jenny’s got a couple of neighbors and their kids over at the house so I don’t have to worry about her being alone. We’ve never had to worry. Donna—God, Donna, of all people. I can’t get ahold of it.”

“I know. I know.”

“He said Loo’s pretty steady now, and she’s going over to Donna’s house. Her—Donna’s—sister and daughter, and the family, I guess, are there. He had to make her swear she’d get the sister’s husband to take her home, make sure she’s inside and locked up. We never had to think about doing that. It’s always been safe here. My kids can go all over the neighborhood and you never worry.”

“I’ll go inside.” She stepped back. “I’ll go inside, lock the doors. You need to go home, you need to be with your family.”

His face went hard. “I’m staying. Until Xander gets here, I’m staying. Jenny’s with a dozen people.”

“Then let’s go up, sit down.”

“He said it was like Marla.” Now that hardness faded into grief. “Word’s going around.” With the dog between them, they started back to the house. “On a Friday night, too, the same as Marla. He dumped her over there.”

“Over . . .” She shuddered when he gestured toward the forest she thought of as her own.

“Just west of the bluff. You can’t go walking there on your own anymore, Naomi.” A friend, a brother, he grabbed her hand. “You can’t do that. Not until they find him.”

Prev Next