The Obsession Page 75

“Relax, he’s one of the good guys.” Xander stepped off the porch, carted the equipment to his truck. “Hey, Chief.”

“Xander. Is that the stray I heard about?”

“Yeah. That’s Tag.”

“Hey there, Tag.”

Chief of police Sam Winston, a toughly built man with a smooth face the color of walnuts and a Waves cap on his close-cropped hair (the high school football team where his son stood as quarterback), crouched down.

Tag, nervous, crept close enough to sniff.

“He’s a good-looking dog.”

“Now, he is.”

Tag accepted the head scrub, then immediately ran back to Naomi when she came out.

“Ma’am.” Sam tapped the brim of his cap. “I’m Sam Winston, chief of police.”

“Is something wrong?”

“I’m not sure about that. I’ve been meaning to come up, introduce myself. It’s good someone’s back on the bluff, and from what I hear—and can see for myself—you’re giving the old girl a face-lift. She needed one. You got Kevin Banner and his crew on it, I hear.”


“You couldn’t do better. Looks like I caught you two on the way out.”

“Naomi’s going to take some pictures of the band.”

“Is that so?” Sam hooked his thumbs in his thick Sam Browne belt, gave a little nod. “I bet they’ll be good ones. I don’t want to keep you, and it saves me time to find you both here. It’s about Marla Roth.”

“If she’s trying to push an assault charge, I’ll push back. Again,” Naomi said.

“I can’t say if she’d go there. We can’t seem to find her.”

“Still?” Xander put in, turned back from stowing the equipment.

“Nobody’s seen or heard from her, the way it looks, since Friday night. Not long after your scuffle with her, Ms. Carson.”

“If she’s still pissed about that, she could’ve taken off for a few days,” Xander began.

Worn boots planted, Sam gave the bill of his cap a little flick up. “Her car’s at her house, and she isn’t. Chip finally broke in the back door this morning, then came back to see me. She didn’t go in to work yesterday, isn’t answering her phone. She could be in a snit, and it’s most likely she is, but Chip’s worried sick, and I need to look into it. Now, the story I’m getting is she went at you at Loo’s on Friday night.”

Missing could mean anything, Naomi assured herself. Missing didn’t mean an old root cellar in the deep woods. More often, much more often, it just meant a person had gone somewhere no one had looked yet.

“Ms. Carson?” Sam prompted.

“Sorry, yes. That’s right. She knocked into me a couple of times, then shoved me a couple of times.”

“And you clocked her one?”

“No, I didn’t hit her. I took her wrist, gave it a twist—leverage, pressure point, so she went down. So she stopped shoving me.”

“Then what?”

“Then I left. It was annoying and embarrassing, so I left and came home.”

“By yourself.”

“Yes, I came home alone.”

“About what time do you think that was?”

“About ten thirty.” Just doing his job, Naomi reminded herself, and took a deep breath. “I let the dog out, walked around with him for a while. I was angry and upset, and couldn’t concentrate on work.”

“And I got here about twelve thirty.” Though Xander leaned negligently back on his truck, irritation edged his voice. “The dog got us up just after five, and I left about seven thirty, maybe a little before. Come on, Chief.”

“Xander, I’ve got to ask. Patti’s been screeching about Ms. Carson attacking Marla—she’s the only one with that take,” he added before Xander could speak. “And even she’s backed off that mark. But the fact is, Marla stormed out of Loo’s in a temper about twenty minutes after Ms. Carson, and as far as I can determine, that’s the last anyone saw her.”

Sam huffed out a breath, petted the dog, who now apparently found him delightful. “Did either of you see her with anybody, somebody she might’ve taken it into her head to go off with?”

“She was sitting with Patti.” Xander shrugged. “I try not to notice Marla too much.”

“I saw her at her table, with her friend, earlier in the evening.” Tense now, Naomi rubbed her neck. “I was sitting with Kevin and Jenny. I really wasn’t paying attention to her, until Jenny and I got up to dance and she . . . I don’t even know her.”

“I understand that, I do, and I don’t want you to worry about this. She probably went off with somebody she met at the bar, to lick her wounds and get Chip worked up.”

Naomi shook her head. “A woman who’s pissed off and upset? She’s going to talk to her girlfriend.”

“They had a bit of a falling-out after the incident.”

“Regardless. Even if she called this Patti to argue, or at least send her a bitchy text.”

“We’ll be looking into it. I’m not going to keep you, but I’d like to come back sometime, see what you’re doing inside.”

“Yes, sure.”

“You have a good day. I’ll be seeing you around, Xander.”

Naomi’s insides twisted as Sam got back in his cruiser.

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