Joshua’s lips twisted into a bitter smile. “That was the problem. He’d always given a shit about her.” His Adam’s apple bobbed. “My dad was weak. He did whatever Eloise, his mother, told him to do. Watching out for Kensey was his one rebellion.”
I almost jerked back in surprise. Wait, what?
“He wasn’t in Kensey’s life,” Blake pointed out.
“No, but he wanted to be. Maybe it was because she had his eyes. Maybe it was because she was his only biological child. Yeah, that’s right, I’m not really his son. Like Kensey, my mother had an affair and I was the end result. I didn’t know that until a year ago. Eloise told me on her deathbed.”
My mouth dropped open. I heard Greg asking if I was okay, but all I could do was nod numbly.
“Must have been one hell of a shock to find out that you’ve been looking down on Kensey all these years for being the product of an affair when you’re really no different.”
Oh, the irony.
Joshua shoved a hand through his hair. “According to Eloise, my parents had countless affairs—neither of them gave a shit about what the other was doing as long as they were discreet about it. Having Clear Lyons publicly claim that she and Maxwell had an affair and that she was pregnant with his child wasn’t discreet. My mother didn’t handle it well.”
“And you don’t think that was hypocritical of your mother, considering she fathered a child to another man and passed you off as Maxwell’s?”
“I do now. Back then, I didn’t know that. He didn’t know until she told him in a moment of spite when I was a kid. He still raised me as his. He did love me. Eloise said my mother made the excuse that she got pregnant to someone else because he hadn’t been able to impregnate her. Said she was convinced he couldn’t father a child. So when Clear gave birth to a girl with his eyes, it threw my mother’s claim out the window. Not that her claim in any way excused what she’d done anyway. If he’d loved my mother, maybe he’d have cared about her lies, but their marriage was a sham.”
“It’s not Kensey’s fault that she’s his biological child when you’re not,” said Blake, seeing straight to the heart of Joshua’s problem. “That’s one of the main reasons why you still hate her so much, isn’t it? Not because your parents’ relationship went to shit. No, it’s because she was his. Hearing you’re the ‘end result’ of an affair makes you feel dirty, doesn’t it? Worse, it makes you feel like her. Well I’m telling you now, Joshua, your fucking stunts end now.” Blake stabbed his finger at the desk to accentuate his point.
“Why do you think I’m investigating the vandalisms on my own time? I know I owe her. I won’t lie and say I’ll ever apologize to her—it wouldn’t mean anything to her even if I did—but I will back off.”
“I fucking know you will, Joshua. Because I won’t have it any other way.” Blake leaned forward. “Now, why don’t you tell me why you believe Maxwell wanted to be in her life?”
“He got real talkative when he was drunk. One time, he got to talking about Clear Lyons. Said that when he’d first heard she’d married Bale, Maxwell felt he was to blame. See, he’d known she was naïve and desperate to be loved, and he’d used that to play her. But when she married Bale—the most insane, fucked-up thing a person could ever do—he felt like he must have broken her. He knew what kind of life Kensey would have because of Clear’s marriage to Bale, and he hated it. If he weren’t so easily cowed by Eloise, he would have tried to get custody of Kensey.”
I sank into my chair. He had to be lying, right?
“When my uncle put Ricky’s name to the boy who’d turned up at her school, Maxwell went to his house and paid Ricky’s mother to have him seen by a doctor. He promised her an annual sum if she could keep her son away from Kensey, which she did. I thought it possible that she was no longer so successful.”
“And?” prodded Blake.
“She said she hasn’t seen Ricky since he lost his job a few months back. She begged me to find him; said he’d stopped taking his pills and she was scared about what he might do.”
“What he might do?” Blake echoed.
“She didn’t elaborate on what she meant by that. I asked if I could look at his room to see if there were any clues as to where he might have gone. There weren’t. But I can tell you that his obsession with Michael Bale hasn’t faded. He had scrapbooks full of news clippings, articles he’d printed from the internet, and drawings he’d done of Bale. It wasn’t something he’d done before going on his meds; the last article was dated four months ago.”
Fuck, that wasn’t good at all.
“Was there anything about Kensey in those scrapbooks?” asked Blake.
“Only passing comments within the clippings and articles about Bale’s life. But …”
Blake’s shoulders stiffened. “What?”
“I found letters.”
“Three. They were signed, ‘Your Friend.’”
“What did these letters say?”
“The first one was all about how great they think Michael Bale is. They believe Ricky is truly Bale’s son and ‘heir’ to his ‘legacy.’” Joshua snickered with disgust. “They told Ricky that the meds he was taking were making him see a distorted reality. This person was basically encouraging him to cease taking the pills so he could ‘claim his heritage.’”
“Did this ‘Friend’ mention Kensey?”
“Not until the second letter. They said it wasn’t fair to Ricky that she had all of Bale’s attention. But they also said that she wasn’t a bad person, just didn’t appreciate or understand Bale the way Ricky did. ‘Friend’ also said they would ‘take care’ of her; Ricky should just concentrate on himself.”
Goosebumps rose on my arms as a chill blew through me. What the fuck?
“And the third letter?” Blake pushed.
“It seemed as if Ricky had argued that Kensey was a good person in his response to the previous letter, because ‘Friend’ was assuring him that she wouldn’t be a problem. Said they knew all her secrets, her hopes, her fears. Said she didn’t want Bale for a stepfather and would gladly step aside to make way for Ricky, the true heir, to come forward. ‘Friend’ added that they’d share her secrets with Ricky when the two finally met in person.”
Cursing under my breath, I rubbed at my nape. If what Joshua said was true, I was potentially dealing with two sick motherfuckers.
“I’m assuming you have those letters,” said Blake.
“I intend to have them dusted for prints.”
Blake held out his hand. “I’d like to see them.”
“You doubt me?”
“Do I have a reason to believe you without question?”
Sighing, Joshua pulled them out of his coat pocket. “You can’t take them out of the evidence bags.”
Blake read each of them through the plastic, one by one, and then slid them across the desk. “There’s no return address. How did Ricky know where to send his own letters?”
“My best guess is that ‘Friend’ included his address on a separate slip of paper or something.”