“Why did you start leaving those messages?” Robert asked once they were on their way down the snowy lane toward the woods where Valspar lived.
“I wanted to talk to you.”
Robert made a derisive sound.
“It’s the truth. What other reason would I have?”
Robert didn’t reply.
“Why didn’t you pick up?”
“I didn’t want to talk to you.”
“No, I guess not.”
Staring out the side window, Robert said, “Even if I had…wanted to talk to you, you must have realized it was impossible.” There was a trace of bitterness in his voice. “I should have turned those calls over to the Bureau.”
“I was enough of a laughing stock as it was.”
It was a few seconds before Noel could trust his voice. “I didn’t want you to forget me.”
“I knew we couldn’t—that there wasn’t a way for us to—but I didn’t want you to forget me,” he admitted. “It sounds childish. I guess it was. I wanted your attention.”
Robert was silent so long Noel didn’t think he would answer. “It would be hard to forget you when you made me a character in your books.”
Noel swallowed. “I was trying to be funny.”
“Yep, I could see that.”
“I wasn’t trying to—” Noel said helplessly, “Robert, I don’t know how to do this stuff. I never learned. I haven’t had a lot of relationships.”
“You haven’t had any that I can find,” Robert said coolly. “Not since adulthood. You don’t have relationships. Hell, you don’t even have affairs. You have a history of paying for sex, high-class prostitutes for the most part, and never the same partner twice in a row.”
Noel could find no reply. He felt numb hearing the pathetic truth laid out in such chilly, impersonal terms. A good and timely reminder that for Robert, he was, and probably always would be, merely a case. A cold case. The one that got away.
If he was lucky.
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