The Obsession Page 18

Quick splice to the family in church—father, mother, gangly girl, little boy. And the next of the girl reaching for the lock on a rough wood door.

She couldn’t watch. The popcorn fell out of her hand, spilled everywhere; the soda landed with a wet slap as she jumped up. Her friends called out:

Hey, watch it!

What the hell, Naomi!

But she was bolting for the doors.

She heard the announcer blare behind her.

A story of depravity. A story of courage. Daughter of Evil. Coming November.

Her knees buckled as she stumbled into the lobby. She fell on all fours while the room spun and her chest burned.

She heard Mason’s voice, miles away, as he shook her.

“Get up. Come on, Naomi, you have to get up.”

He pulled her up and half dragged, half carried her out into the hot, heavy air of September, the too-bright lights of Times Square.

“Look at me. Look at me.”

He was nearly as tall as she was, and he had their father’s eyes. A deep golden brown. They held both worry and shock.

“Can’t breathe.”

“Yes, you can. You are. Just take it slow.”

“It was—”

“Don’t say it. Don’t say it here. Anybody asks, you got sick. You felt sick, and we went home. Let’s walk. Come on.”

She managed two shaky steps, then had to stop, brace her hands on her knees and lean over, afraid she would be sick. But the queasiness passed, the dizziness eased.

“Did you know? Did you?”

He took her hand in a firm grip, pulled her down Broadway. “I knew they were making it. I didn’t know they’d finished everything or that they’d show the damn preview during Spider-Man.”

“That was our house.”

“They filmed a lot of it on location.”

“How do you know?”

“I look stuff up sometimes. I just thought it would take longer to get out, but it’s already getting, you know, buzz from the critics and online.”

“Why didn’t you tell me?”

He stopped, shot her a cool look of disdain only a sibling can manage. “Because you don’t want to hear it. Nobody talks about it, nobody tells me anything. So I look shit up for myself. I read Simon Vance’s book.”

Now she felt hot and sick all over again. “We have to put it behind us. It’s been four years.”

“Have you? Have you put it behind you?”

“Yes. Most of the time. A lot of the time.”

“Mama hasn’t. Remember when she said she was going for a weekend with that friend of hers? To some spa deal? She didn’t. She took the bus and went to see him, in prison.”

“How do you know that?”

He shrugged, then pulled her inside a coffee shop, wound through to a table. “She’s done it before. When the rest of us went to Hilton Head for a week, and she said she had a stomach virus? She went to see him then, too. I found the bus tickets in her purse, both those times, and one other.”

“You went through her purse?”

“That’s right.” He didn’t miss a beat. “Two Cokes, please,” he said with remarkable ease to the waitress. “And I go through her room, so that’s how I know she’s been writing to him. She has letters from him that come to a P.O. box.”

“You can’t disrespect her privacy,” Naomi began, then covered her face with her hands. “Why is she doing this?”

“She’s submissive and dependent—he’s dominated her the whole time. It’s like emotional abuse and battering.”

“Where do you get that?”

“I look shit up, like I said. He’s a psychopath, for Christ’s sake, Nome. You should know. And he’s a narcissist. That’s why he gives the cops another name and location every couple years. Another victim, and where he buried her. It keeps him in the news, keeps getting him attention. He’s a liar and he manipulates Mama. He twists her up because he can. Remember when she OD’d?”

“Don’t say it like that, Mason.”

“It’s what happened. Thanks.” He sent the waitress a quick smile when she set their drinks down. “He’d talked her into giving more interviews to Vance—the writer. I don’t know how he got in touch with her right off, but he talked her into that, and when the book came out, she couldn’t handle it.”

“He knows where we are.”

“I don’t know, but he sure as hell knows we’re in New York.” Then Mason shrugged. “He doesn’t care about us, and never did. Mama’s his target.”

“He cared about you.”

“I don’t think so. Do you think I wanted a buzz cut every freaking month? If he made it to one of my Little League games I could feel his eyes on my back when I came up to bat. I knew if I struck out, fouled out, he’d give me that sneer—that I’m raising a pussy sneer.”

“But . . .”

“He watched me for signs of ‘Carson blood.’ That’s how he put it. When I was eight he told me if I ever showed any fag tendencies, he’d beat the fag out of me.”

Shocked, she grabbed Mason’s hand. “You never told me.”

“Some shit you don’t tell your sister. At least when you’re eight. He scared the crap out of me—you, too. We just got used to being scared of him, like that was normal.”

“Yes.” She let it out on a shaky breath. “Yes, what kind of mood will he be in? Will he be in a good mood? Everything circled around him. I’ve gotten some of that out of therapy. I just didn’t know you felt that, too.”

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