The Obsession Page 117

“Have you ever bought a grill before?”

“No, but—”

“I’ll take care of it.”

It occurred to her he was thinking, and feeling, something other than grief. So she stretched it out. “You don’t know the features I want, the brand, the size. We’re having chicken, rice, mixed vegetables,” she decided.

“You don’t buy a grill online any more than you buy a car online.”

Because she felt better herself, she took another poke. “Have you ever bought a grill?”

“Kevin has, twice, and I was with him both times. It’s the same thing.”

She began to assemble her ingredients. “Well, there’s plenty of time to decide before summer.”

“There’s your first wrong turn—well, second since the whole online deal. You get the right grill, you use it year-round, especially when you can put it right outside the kitchen like you can here.”

She got a pot for the rice, put it on the stove, then came to the counter so she could face him while she minced garlic. “I had no idea you were so serious about outdoor grills. The things you learn.”

“I’m buying the grill.”

They’d see about that.

“Do you know how to peel carrots?”

Frowning, he took a slow sip of beer. “Probably.”

She pulled carrots out of the fridge, got a peeler, pushed them to his side of the counter. “Good, peel these.”

“I thought you scraped them off with a knife.”

It was her turn for pity. “Sure, if you want to take all day and make a mess out of it. You just . . .” She picked up a carrot and peeler and demonstrated.

“Okay, okay. I’ve got it.”

Mason came back in to see Xander with a small pile of carrot peels, scowling at the carrot he worked on stripping. And his sister at the stove sautéing garlic.

Pretty homey, he thought. Maybe Xander looked out of his milieu, but altogether, pretty homey.

“Mason, do you remember how to floret a cauliflower?”


“Sure you do.”

She handed him a knife, set the head on a cutting board.

“I don’t even like cauliflower.” But he sat, comfortable now in an old Harvard Crimson T-shirt and jeans, and picked up the knife.

“You do when it’s disguised with butter and herbs. It’s nice,” she said, “having line cooks.”

“It’s like home.” Mason cut away the thick stem, sliced through the core from the bottom, pulled the head into two halves. “Back in New York, only you’re head chef instead of Harry.”

“When they get here, I’ll abdicate, but only after he lets me show off. That gives me a couple of weeks to devise a show-off menu, outfit guest rooms, and hope Jenny can redo those dining room chairs.” She added chicken to the pan with a satisfying sizzle.

“I’m going to try to be here. I should be able to work out of the Seattle office temporarily.”

After a long beat of silence, Mason set the knife aside, picked up his wine. “Okay. I’m going to lay this out for you—as much as I can. While the ME will determine, it’s clear from the on-scene examination and the evidence gathered that Donna Lanier was abducted and killed by the same unsub as Marla Roth. You don’t need the details,” he added, and went back to the knife. “It’s my strong belief, shared by Chief Winston, that Lanier wasn’t his first choice. She was simply there. As with the first victim, she was held and killed at another location, then transported and dumped where she would be found quickly. He wants us to know he’s here, he’s hunting. He’s arrogant, enjoys both the attention and the fear he’s generating. He’s intelligent, organized, experienced.”

“You mean he’s done this before,” Naomi replied. “That’s what you mean by experienced.”

“Yeah. It’s unlikely a coincidence he took both victims on a Friday night, held them until Sunday. We can speculate he has his weekends free or has the privacy he needs during that time period.”

“You still think he lives here.” Xander finished the last carrot, waited for a reply.

“I can’t eliminate someone who lives in town, works in town, or works or lives in the area.”

“Why?” Xander demanded. “We haven’t had any rapes or murders, nothing like this around here before.”

“He may not have brought it home before. He may have taken a hitchhiker, a hiker, someone passing through, and buried or concealed the body. He may recently have acquired, through purchase, inheritance, divorce, a place he can use to do his work. So far, most of the rentals have been checked and eliminated. We’re also checking on seasonal workers, tenants, new residents, vacationers who’ve been in the area since the first victim was abducted. I’ll continue to research and analyze like crimes. If I find a pattern, if I find more, we’ll have the full resources of the FBI on this.

“I’ve asked a contact I have at the BAU to look over the files, to check my profile, to see if I’m on the right track or if I’ve gone wrong. But whether or not the unsub lives and works here or happened upon this location, he’s still here. It’s gone too well for him to move on.”

“Naomi fits his type.”

“Xander.” Annoyed, she turned the chicken.

“Yes, she does. I believe he has a type, and Naomi fits it. I trust her to take all reasonable precautions.”

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