The Obsession Page 146

“He didn’t.”

“He could have—”

“He didn’t. Get used to it.” He pulled her hand to his lips, held it there, rocked for a moment. “I’ve still got to get used to him nearly killing you—but not. We’re both right here. Jesus, Naomi. Jesus, I didn’t know I could be that scared and live through it. I didn’t know how bad it was. I couldn’t tell, just you lying there, and the blood.”

“Did you save me?”

He pressed his lips to her hand again. “You’d have done the same for me.”

“Yeah. Probably. We’re both right here.” She smiled as Tag nosed under her other hand. “We’re all three right here. And Chaffins?”

“In custody. I don’t know where they’re taking him, probably later today. News is all over. I spent some time reading on my phone last night. It’s all over the news. They broke your connection to Bowes. I’m sorry.”

“I don’t care. It doesn’t matter anymore. I should never have let it matter so much. How long do I have to stay in here? I want to go home.”

“They’ll want to look you over, but they said you could probably go home today.”

“I need to go home, Xander, but I need to see him first. I need to see Chaffins. I never saw or spoke to my father, but I’m going to see and speak to Chaffins.”

“Okay. Let’s see about getting you out of here, and see what Mason can do.”

It took two hours, a lot of paperwork, a lot of warnings, and she had to leave in a wheelchair, use a side entrance where Mason had a car waiting.

He helped her stand, then just held her. “You’ve looked better.”

“I’ve felt better.”

With his help she eased into the car while Xander and Tag took the backseat.

“The press are all over town. If you do this, you can’t avoid them completely.”

“It doesn’t matter.”

“He had a press pass,” Mason said as he drove. “He came to briefings, booked a motel room—though he stayed in the camper, too. Even when he wasn’t using it for other reasons.”

Just a smart, nerdy kid who’d gone to a school dance with her, who’d put a couple clumsy moves on her, easily brushed off.

And a monster, all along.

“He held his victims there—like Bowes and the cellar.”

“Yeah. Different campgrounds, different names. He’s collected several IDs over the last several years. He’s got skills, computer skills.”

“He always did.”

“He kept a log of his victims—names, locations, dates. He has photos of them. We’ve got enough evidence to put him away for a dozen lifetimes. You’ll never have to worry about him again.”

“I’m not. I won’t. You’ve told the uncles I’m okay.”

“Yeah, I talked to them. Don’t worry.”

“I don’t want them to. I’ll call them as soon as I get home.”

“Then you’re taking one of those pills,” Xander said, “and zoning out.”

“I probably won’t argue about that one. Are you still going to see Bowes?”

“I will.” Mason nodded. “But it can wait.”

He drove into town, pulled into the slot closest to the station house they’d cleared for him. The minute Xander helped Naomi out of the car, reporters rushed toward them, shouting.

“Tag, too. He should see the dog, too.”

Sam Winston opened the door for them, stepped out.

“Every one of you keep back, and stop yelling or I’ll have every last one of you arrested for disturbing the peace. This is my town, and I’ll do it.”

He closed the door, took Naomi’s hand. “This is your town, too. Are you feeling up to this? You’re certain?”

“Yes. It won’t take long.”

Not so different, she thought, no, not so different, from that police station so long ago. They’d have put her father in one of the cells in the back, behind the steel door.

“Mason, Xander, and Tag. All of us.”

It hurt to keep her back straight, but she’d deal with it. She needed to walk in, unbowed. When she did, Chaffins rolled off the bunk where he’d sprawled. And, despite the blackened eyes, the bruised, swollen, and taped nose, the split lip, he smiled, showing gaps from missing teeth.

“Kid brother, grease monkey, and your little dog, too. Afraid of me, Naomi?”

“Not in the least. I just wanted us all to have a look at you in what’s now your natural habitat.”

“I’ll get out,” he snapped as Tag growled low in his throat.

“No, you won’t.”

“I’ll get out, and come for you. You’ll always look over your shoulder.”

“No, I won’t.” She laid a hand on Xander’s arm, felt it vibrate. “Would you give us a minute?”

“Sure.” But Xander stepped up to the cell first, whipped a hand through quick as a snake, rapped Chaffins against the bars. She couldn’t hear what Xander murmured in his ear, but it drained the color from Chaffins’s face.

“Fuck you! I should’ve beat you to fucking death.”

“But you didn’t,” Xander said easily, and, stepping back, looked at Naomi. “You don’t move from this spot unless it’s back.”

“Don’t worry.” She took his hand, kissed his bruised knuckles. “You, too, Mason. Just for one minute.”

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