The Obsession Page 9

“I cut the ropes off her myself.”

“No, you didn’t. You’re going to stop this lying right now, and tell everybody how you made it all up.”

A dull throb filled Naomi’s head so her own voice sounded flat and hollow through it.

“I pulled the tape off her mouth. I helped her get out of the cellar. She could hardly walk. She didn’t have any clothes.”


“He raped her.”

“Don’t you say such a thing.” Her voice pitching high, Susan shook Naomi. “Don’t you dare.”

“There were pictures on the wall. A lot of pictures, of other girls, Mama. There were knives with blood dried on them, and rope, and—”

“I don’t want to hear this.” Susan clamped her hands over her ears. “How can you say all this? How can I believe all this? He’s my husband. I lived with him for fourteen years. I bore him two children. I slept in the same bed, night after night.”

The fierceness shattered, like glass. Susan dropped her head on Naomi’s shoulder again. “Oh, what are we going to do? What’s to become of us?”

“We’ll be all right,” Naomi said again, helplessly. “We’ll be all right, Mama.”

They couldn’t go home. Not until the police and now the FBI cleared it so they could. But Lettie brought them all clothes and their own toothbrushes and so on, and made her guest room theirs—hers and her mother’s—with Mason bunking in with her son.

The doctor gave her mother something to make her sleep, and that was good. Naomi took a shower, put her own clothes on, tied her hair back, and felt more herself.

When she walked across the hall from the bathroom and cracked open the door to check on her mother, she saw her little brother sitting on the bed.

“Don’t wake her!” Naomi hissed, then felt bad for the sharp order when he turned his head to look at her.

He’d been crying, too, and his face was splotchy from it, his eyes red-rimmed on the outside, lost on the inside.

“I’m just watching her.”

“Come on out, Mason. If she wakes up, she’ll start crying again.”

He did what she said without arguing—a rare thing—and then walked straight into her, wrapped his arms tight.

They didn’t hug much anymore, but it felt good to have somebody to hold on to, so she hugged back.

“They came right into the house, and we were still sleeping. I heard Daddy yelling, and other people, and I ran out. I saw Daddy fighting with the deputy, and they pushed him against the wall. Mama was screaming and crying, and they put handcuffs on Daddy, just like on the TV. Did he rob a bank? Nobody will tell me.”

“No, he didn’t rob a bank.”

If they went downstairs, Miss Lettie would be there, so instead she sat down with her brother on the floor.

“He hurt people, Mason. Ladies.”


“I don’t know, but he did.”

“Maybe it was their fault.”

“No, it wasn’t. He took them to a place in the woods, and locked them up and hurt them.”

“What place?”

“A bad place. They have to put him in jail for it.”

“I don’t want Daddy to go to jail.” The tears started up again. All she could do was wrap an arm around his shoulders.

“He did bad things to people, Mason. He has to go to jail.”

“Does Mama have to go to jail?”

“No, she didn’t hurt anybody. She didn’t know he was hurting people. Don’t go pestering her about it. And don’t go fighting either. People are going to say things about Daddy, and you’re going to want to fight about it, but you can’t. Because what they’re going to say is true.”

His face went belligerent. “How do you know what’s true?”

“Because I saw, because I know. I don’t want to talk about it anymore right now. I talked about it enough today. I wish it was over. I wish we were someplace else.”

“I wanna go home.”

She didn’t. She didn’t ever want to go back to that house again, knowing what was back in the deep woods. Knowing what had lived in those same rooms, eaten at the same table.

“Miss Lettie says they’ve got Nintendo down in their family room.”

Belligerence changed to a look of hope mixed with doubt. “Can we play it?”

“She said we could.”

“Do they have Donkey Kong?”

“We can find out.”

They didn’t have video games at home—or a computer—but they both had enough friends who did to know the basics. And she knew Mason dearly loved video games. It was simple to set him up in the family room with Miss Lettie’s help—and better yet when she hard-eyed her teenage son into playing with Mason.

“I’m going to make some lemonade. Why don’t you come in the kitchen with me, Naomi, give me a hand with that?”

The house was so nice. Clean and pretty, with lots of colors on the walls and in the furniture. She knew Mr. Harbough taught English and literature at the high school, and Miss Lettie worked for the sheriff. But the house looked rich to her.

And the kitchen had a dishwasher—which was her name at home—and a counter of snowy white in the middle with a second sink right in it.

“Your house is so nice, Miss Lettie.”

“Why, thank you. It makes me happy. I want you to be comfortable while you’re here.”

Prev Next