Cross, p.1Part #12 of Alex Cross series by James Patterson
Little, Brown and Company
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Dedicated to the Palm Beach Day School; Shirley and Headmaster Jack Thompson
WHAT IS YOUR NAME, SIR?
THOMPSON: I’m Jack Thompson, with the Berkshires Medical Center. How many shots did you hear?
CROSS: Multiple shots.
THOMPSON: What is your name, sir?
CROSS: Alex Cross.
THOMPSON: Are you having trouble breathing? Experiencing any pain?
CROSS: Pain in my abdomen. Feel liquid sloshing around. Shortness of breath.
THOMPSON: You know that you were shot?
CROSS: Yes. Twice. Is he dead? The Butcher? Michael Sullivan?
THOMPSON: I don’t know. Several men are dead. Okay, guys, give me a nonrebreather mask. Two wide-base IV lines, stat. Two liters IV saline solution. Now! We’re going to try to move you, get you to a hospital immediately, Mr. Cross. Just hold on. Can you still hear me? Are you with me?
CROSS: My kids . . . tell them I love them.
NO ONE WILL EVER LOVE YOU THE WAY I DO—1989
“I’M PREGNANT, ALEX.”
Everything about the night is so very clear to me. Still is, after all this time, all these years that have passed, everything that’s happened, the horrible murderers, the homicides solved and sometimes not.
I stood in the darkened bedroom with my arms lightly circling my wife Maria’s waist, my chin resting on her shoulder. I was thirty-one then, and had never been happier at any time of my life.
Nothing even came close to what we had together, Maria, Damon, Jannie, and me.
It was in the fall, a million years ago it seems to me now.
It was also past two in the morning, and our baby Jannie had colic something terrible. Poor sweet girl had been up for most of the night, most of the last few nights, most of her young life. Maria was gently rocking Jannie in her arms, humming “You Are So Beautiful,” and I had my arms around Maria, rocking her.
I was the one who’d gotten up first, but I couldn’t seem to get Jannie back to sleep no matter what tricks I tried. Maria had come in and taken the baby after an hour or so. We both had work early in the morning. I was on a murder case.
“You’re pregnant?” I said against Maria’s shoulder.
“Bad timing, huh, Alex? You see a lot more croup in your future? Binkies? More dirty diapers? Nights like this one?”
“I don’t like this part so much. Being up late, or early, whatever this is. But I love our life, Maria. And I love that we’re going to have another baby.”
I held on to Maria and turned on the music from the mobile dangling over Janelle’s crib. We danced in place to “Someone to Watch Over Me.”
Then she gave me that beautiful partly bashful, partly goofy smile of hers, the one I’d fallen for, maybe on the very first night I ever saw her. We had met in the emergency room at St. Anthony’s, during an emergency. Maria had brought in a gangbanger, a gunshot victim, a client of hers. She was a dedicated social worker, and she was being protective—especially since I was a dreaded metro homicide detective, and she didn’t exactly trust the police. Then again, neither did I.
I held Maria a little tighter. “I’m happy. You know that. I’m glad you’re pregnant. Let’s celebrate. I’ll get some champagne.”
“You like being the big daddy, huh?”
“I do. Don’t know why exactly. I just do.”
“You like screaming babies in the middle of the night?”
“This too shall pass. Isn’t that right, Janelle? Young lady, I’m talking to you.”
Maria turned her head away from the wailing baby and gave me a sweet kiss on the lips. Her mouth was soft, always inviting, always sexy. I loved her kisses—anytime, anywhere.
She finally wriggled out of my arms. “Go back to bed, Alex. No sense both of us being up. Get some sleep for me too.”
Just then, I noticed something else in the bedroom, and I started to laugh, couldn’t help myself.
“What’s so funny?” Maria smiled.
I pointed, and she saw it too. Three apples—each one with a single childlike bite out of it. The apples were propped on the legs of three stuffed toys, different-colored Barney dinosaurs. Toddler Damon’s fantasy play was revealed to us. Our little boy had been spending some time in his sister Jannie’s room.
As I got to the doorway, Maria gave me that goofy smile of hers again. And a wink. She whispered—and I will never forget what she said—“I love you, Alex. No one will ever love you the way I do.”
FORTY MILES NORTH OF DC, in Baltimore, two cocksure long-haired hit men in their mid to late twenties ignored the MEMBERS ONLY sign and sashayed into the St. Francis Social Club on South High Street, not far from the harbor. Both men were heavily armed and smiling like a couple of stand-up comedians.
There were twenty-seven capos and soldiers in the club room that night, playing cards, drinking grappa and espresso, watching the Bullets lose to the Knicks on TV. Suddenly the room was quiet and on edge.
Nobody just walked into St. Francis of Assisi, especially not uninvited and armed.
One of the intruders in the doorway, a man named Michael Sullivan, calmly saluted the group. This was some funny shit, Sullivan was thinking to himself. All these goombah tough guys sitting around chewing their cud. His companion, or compare, Jimmy “Hats” Galati, glanced around the room from under the brim of a beat-up black fedora, like the one worn by Squiggy on Laverne & Shirley. The social club was pretty typical—straight chairs, card tables, makeshift bar, guineas coming out of the woodwork.
“No welcoming committee for us? No brass bands?” asked Sullivan, who lived for confrontation of any kind, verbal or physical. It had always been him and Jimmy Hats against everybody else, ever since they were fifteen and ran away from their homes in Brooklyn.
“Who the hell are you?” asked a foot soldier, who rose like steam from one of the rickety card tables. He was maybe six two, with jet-black hair, and weighed 220 or so, obviously worked out with weights.
“He’s the Butcher of Sligo. Ever hear of him?” said Jimmy Hats. “We’re from New York City. Ever hear of New York City?”
THE BUFFED-UP MOB SOLDIER didn’t react, but an older man in a black suit and white shirt buttoned to the collar raised his hand like the pope or something and spoke slowly and deliberately in heavily accented English. “To what do we owe this honor?” he asked. “Of course we’ve heard of the Butcher. Why are you here in Baltimore? What can we do for you?”
“We’re just passing through,” Michael Sullivan said to the old man. “Have to do a little job for Mr. Maggione in DC. You gentlemen heard of Mr. Maggione?”
Heads nodded around the room. The tenor of the conversation so far suggested that this was definitely serious business. Dominic Maggione controlled the Family in New York, which ran most of the East Coast, down as far as Atlanta anyway.
Everybody in the room knew who Dominic Maggione was and that the Butcher was his most ruthless hit man. Supposedly, he used butcher knives, scalpels, and mallets on his victims. A reporter in Newsday had said of one of his murders, “No human being could have done this.” The Butcher was feared in mob circles and by the police. So it was a surprise to those in the room that the killer was so young and that he looked like a movie actor, with his long blond hair and striking blue eyes.
The soldier who had stood up suddenly made his move, and the Butcher’s arm shot forward in a blur. He sliced off the tip of the man’s nose, then the lobe of an ear. The soldier grabbed at his face in two places and stepped back so fast he lost his balance and fell hard on the wood-plank floor.
The Butcher was fast, and obviously as good as promised with a knife. He was like the old-time assassins from Sicily, and that’s how he had learned knife play, from one of the old soldiers in South Brooklyn. Amputation and bone-crunching had come easily to him. He considered them his trademark, symbols of his ruthlessness.
Jimmy Hats had a gun out, a .45 caliber semiautomatic. Hats was also known as “Jimmy the Protector,” and he had the Butcher’s back. Always.
Now Michael Sullivan slowly walked around the room. He kicked over a couple of card tables, shut off the TV, and pulled the plug on the espresso machine. Everyone suspected that somebody was going to die. But why? Why had Dominic Maggione unleashed this madman on them?
“I see some of you are expecting a little show,” he said. “I see it in your eyes. I smell it. Well, hell, I don’t want to disappoint anybody.”
Suddenly, Sullivan went down on one knee and stabbed the wounded mob soldier where he lay on the floor. He stabbed the man in the throat, then in the face and chest until there was no movement in the body. It was hard to count the strokes, but it must have been a dozen, probably more.
Then the strangest thing of all. Sullivan stood up and took a bow over the dead man’s body. As if this was all a big show to him, all just an act.
Finally, the Butcher turned his back on the room and walked unconcerned toward the door. No fear of anything or anyone. He called over his shoulder, “Nice meetin’ you, gentlemen. Next time, show some respect. For Mr. Maggione—if not for myself and Mr. Jimmy Hats.”
Jimmy Hats grinned at the room and tipped his fedora. “Yeah, he’s that good,” he said. “Tell you what, he’s even better with a chain saw.”
THE BUTCHER AND JIMMY HATS laughed their asses off about the St. Francis of Assisi Social Club visit for most of the ride down I-95 to Washington, where they had a tricky job to do in the next day or two. Mr. Maggione had ordered them to stop in Baltimore and make an impression. The don suspected that a couple of the local capos were skimming on him. The Butcher figured he’d done his job.
That was a part of his growing reputation: not just that he was good at killing, but that he was reliable as a heart attack for a fat man eating fried eggs and bacon.
They were entering DC, taking the scenic route past the Washington Monument and other important la-di-da buildings. “My country ’tis of V,” sang Jimmy Hats in a seriously off-key voice.
Sullivan snorted out a laugh. “You’re a corker yourself, James m’boy. Where the hell did you learn that? My country ’tis of V?”
“St. Patrick’s parish school, Brooklyn, New York, where I learned everything I know about the three Rs—readin’, ritin’, ’rithmetic—an’ where I met this crazy bastard named Michael Sean Sullivan.”
Twenty minutes later they had parked the Grand Am and joined the late-night youth parade traipsing along M Street in Georgetown. Bunch of mopey-dopey college punks, plus him and Jimmy, a couple of brilliant professional killers, thought Sullivan. So who was doing better in life? Who was making it, and who wasn’t?
“Ever think you shoulda gone to college?” asked Hats.
“Couldn’t afford the cut in pay. Eighteen, I was already making seventy-five grand. Besides, I love my job!”
They stopped at Charlie Malone’s, a local watering hole popular with the Washington college crowd for no good reason Sullivan could figure. Neither the Butcher nor Jimmy Hats had gone past high school, but inside the bar, Sullivan struck up an easy conversation with a couple of coeds, no more than twenty years old, probably still in their late teens. Sullivan read a lot, and remembered most of it, so he could talk with just about anybody. His repertoire tonight included the recent shootings of American soldiers in Somalia, a couple hot new movies, even some Romantic poetry—Blake and Keats, which seemed to appeal to the college ladies.
In addition to his charm, though, Michael Sullivan was a looker, and he knew it—slim but nicely toned, six one, longish blond hair, a smile that could dazzle anybody he chose to use it on.
So it was no major surprise when twenty-year-old Marianne Riley from Burkittsville, Maryland, started making none-too-subtle goo-goo eyes at him and touching him in the way forward girls sometimes do.
Sullivan leaned in close to the girl, who smelled like wildflowers. “Marianne, Marianne . . . there used to be a song. Calypso tune? You know it? ‘Marianne, Marianne’?”
“Before my time,” the girl said, but then she winked at him. She had the most gorgeous green eyes, full red lips, and the cutest little plaid bow planted in her hair. Sullivan had decided one thing about her right away—Marianne was a little cock tease, and that was all right with him. He liked to play games too.
“I see. And Mr. Keats, Mr. Blake, Mr. Byron, weren’t they before your time?” he kidded her, with his endearing smile turned on bright. Then he took Marianne’s hand, and he lightly kissed it. He pulled her away from her barstool and did a tight Lindy twirl to the Stones song playing on the jukebox.
“Where are we going?” she asked. “Where do you think we’re going, mister?”
“Not too far,” said Michael Sullivan. “Miss.”
“Not too far?” questioned Marianne. “What does that mean?”
“You’ll see. No worries. Trust me.”
She laughed, pecked him on the cheek, and laughed some more. “Now how could I resist those killer eyes of yours?”
MARIANNE WAS THINKING THAT she didn’t really want to resist this cute guy from New York City. Besides, she was safe inside the bar on M Street. What could go wrong in here? What could anybody try to pull? Play a New Kids on the Block tune on the jukebox?
“I don’t much like the spotlight,” he was saying, leading her toward the back of the bar.
“You think you’re another Tom Cruise, don’t you? Does that big smile of yours always work? Get you what you want?” she asked.
She was smiling too, though, daring him to bring his best moves.
“I don’t know, M.M. Sometimes it works okay, I guess.”
Then he kissed her in the semidarkened hallway at the back of the bar, and the kiss was as good as Marianne could have hoped, kind of sweet actually. Definitely more on the romantic side than she’d expected. He didn’t try to cop a feel along with the kiss, which might have been all right with her, but this was better.
“Whooo.” She exhaled and waved a hand in front of her face like a fan. It was a joke, only not totally a joke.
“It is a little hot in here, isn’t it?” Sullivan said, and the coed’s smile blossomed again. “A little close, don’t you think?”
“Sorry—I’m not leaving with you. This isn’t even a date.”
“I understand,” he said. “Never thought you would leave with me. Never crossed my mind.”
“Of course not. You’re too much of a gentleman.”
He kissed her again, and the kiss was deeper. Marianne liked that he didn’t give up too easily. It didn’t matter, though—she wasn’t going anywhere with him. She didn’t do that, not ever—well, not so far anyway.
“You are a pretty good kisser,” she said. “I’ll give you that.”
“You’re holding up your end,” he said. “You’re a great kisser actually. That was the best kiss of my life,” he kidded.
Sullivan pushed his weight against a door—and suddenly they were stumbling inside the men’s room. Then Jimmy Hats stepped up to watch the door from the outside. He always had the Butcher’s back.
“No, no, no,” Mari
“You really think you can get away with anything, don’t you?” she asked him.
“The answer is yes. I pretty much do what I want, Marianne.”
And suddenly he had a scalpel out, the gleaming razor-sharp blade not far from her throat, and everything changed in a heartbeat. “And you’re right, this isn’t a date. Now don’t say a word, Marianne, or it will be your last on this earth, I swear on my mother’s eyes.”
“THERE’S ALREADY BLOOD on this scalpel,” the Butcher said in a throaty whisper meant to scare her out of her wits. “You see it?”
Then he touched his jeans at the crotch. “Now this blade won’t hurt so much.” He brandished the scalpel in front of her eyes. “But this one will hurt a lot. Disfigure your pretty face for life. I’m not kidding around, college girl.”
He unzipped his jeans and pressed the scalpel against Marianne Riley’s throat—but he didn’t cut her. He lifted up her skirt, then pulled aside her blue panties.
He said, “I don’t want to cut you. You can tell that, can’t you?”
She could barely speak. “I don’t know.”
“You have my word on it, Marianne.”
Then he pushed himself inside the college girl slowly, so as not to hurt her with a thrust. He knew he shouldn’t spend a lot of time here, but he didn’t want to give up her tight insides. Hell, I’ll never see Marianne, Marianne after tonight.
At least she was smart enough not to scream or try to fight him with her knees or nails. When he was finished with his business he showed her a couple of photographs he carried around. Just to be sure she understood her situation, understood it perfectly.
Cross by James Patterson / Mystery & Detective / Thrillers & Crime have rating 4 out of 5 / Based on32 votes