Along came a spider, p.12
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       Along Came a Spider, p.12
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         Part #1 of Alex Cross series by James Patterson

  Gary held his head in both hands. He couldn’t stop the screaming inside his brain. I want to be somebody!


  LIFE AND DEATH went on in Southeast. Sampson and I were back on the Sanders and Turner murder cases. Not surprisingly, little progress had been made in solving the six homicides. Not surprisingly, nobody cared.

  On Sunday, January 10 I knew it was time for a day of rest, my first day off-duty since the kidnapping had occurred.

  I started off the morning feeling a touch sorry for myself, hanging in bed until around ten and nursing a bad head, the result of carousing with Sampson the night before. Most everything running through my head was nonproductive.

  I was missing Maria like the plague for one thing, remembering how fine it had been when the two of us slept in late on a Sunday morning. I was still angry about how I’d been made a scapegoat down South. More important, I felt like shit that none of us had been able to help Maggie Rose Dunne. Early in the case, I’d drawn a parallel between the Dunne girl and my own kids. Every time I thought of her, probably dead now, my stomach involuntarily clenched up—which is not a good thing, especially on the morning after a night on the town.

  I was mulling over staying in the sack until about six. Lose a whole day. I deserved it. I didn’t want to see Nana and hear her guff about where I was the night before. I didn’t even want to see my kids that particular morning.

  I kept going back to Maria. Once upon a time, in another lifetime, she and I, and usually the kids, used to spend all of our Sundays together. Sometimes, we’d hang out in bed until noon, then we’d get dressed up and maybe go splurge for brunch. There wasn’t much that Maria and I didn’t do together. Every night I came home from work as early as I could manage. Maria did the same. There was nothing either one of us wanted to do more. She had gotten me over my wounds after I wasn’t widely accepted in private practice as a psychologist. She had nursed me back to some kind of balance after a couple of years of too much cutting up and catting around with Sampson and a few other single friends, including the fast crowd that played basketball with the Washington Bullets.

  Maria pulled me back to some kind of sanity, and I treasured her for it. Maybe it would have gone on like that forever. Or maybe we would have split up by now. Who knows for certain? We never got the chance to find out.

  One night she was late coming home from her social work job. I finally got the call, and rushed to Misericordia Hospital. Maria had been shot. She was in very bad shape was all they would tell me over the phone.

  I arrived there a little past eight. A friend, a patrolman I knew, sat me down and told me that Maria was dead by the time they got her to the hospital. It had been a ride-by shooting outside the projects. No one knew why, or who could have done the shooting. We never got to say goodbye. There was no preparation, no warning at all, no explanation.

  The pain inside was like a steel column that extended from the center of my chest all the way up into my forehead. I thought about Maria constantly, day and night. After three years, I was finally beginning to forget. I was learning how.

  I was lying in bed, in a peaceful and resigned state, when Damon came in to the room as if his hair were on fire.

  “Hey, Daddy. Hey, Daddy, you awake?”

  “What’s wrong?” I asked, absolutely hating the sound of those words lately. “You look like you just saw Vanilla Ice on our front porch.”

  “Somebody to see you, Daddy,” Damon announced with breathless excitement. “Somebody’s here!”

  “‘The Count’ from Sesame Street?” I asked. “Who’s here? Be a touch more specific. Not another news reporter? If it’s a news reporter—”

  “She says her name Jezme. It’s a lady, Daddy.”

  I believe I sat up in bed, but I didn’t like the view from there too much, and lay down quickly again. “Tell her I’ll be right down. Do not volunteer that I’m in bed. Tell her I’ll be down directly.” Damon left the bedroom, and I wondered how I was going to deliver on the promise I’d just made.

  Janelle and Damon and Jezzie Flanagan were still standing in the foyer of our house when I made it downstairs. Janelle looked a little uncomfortable, but she was getting better at her job of answering our front door. Janelle used to be painfully shy with all strangers. To help her with this, Nana and I have gently encouraged her and Damon to answer the front door during the daytime hours.

  It had to be something important to have Jezzie Flanagan come to the house. I knew that half the FBI was searching for the pilot who’d collected the ransom. So far, there had been nothing on any front. Whatever had been solved about the case, I had solved myself.

  Jezzie Flanagan was dressed in loose black trousers, with a simple white blouse and scuffed tennis sneakers. I remembered her casual look from Miami. It almost made me forget what a big deal she was over at the Secret Service.

  “Something’s happened,” I said, wincing. Pain shot across my skull, then down across my face. The sound of my own voice was too much to bear.

  “No, Alex. We haven’t heard any more about Maggie Rose,” she said. “A few more sightings. That’s all.”

  “Sightings” were what the Federal Bureau called eyewitness accounts from people “claiming” to have seen Maggie Rose or Gary Soneji. So far, the sightings ranged from an empty lot a few streets from Washington Day School, to California, to the children’s unit at Bellevue Hospital in New York City, to South Africa, not to mention a space-probe landing near Sedona, Arizona. No day went by without more sightings being reported somewhere. Big country, lot of kooks on the loose.

  “I didn’t mean to intrude on you guys,” she finally said and smiled. “It’s just that I’ve been feeling bad about what’s happened, Alex. The stories about you are crap. They’re also untrue. I wanted to tell you how I felt. So here I am.”

  “Well, thanks for saying it,” I said to Jezzie. It was one of the only nice things that had happened to me in the past week. It touched me in an odd way.

  “You did everything you could in Florida. I’m not just saying that to make you feel better.”

  I tried to focus my eyes. Things were still a bit blurry. “I wouldn’t call it one of my better work experiences. On the other hand, I didn’t think I deserved front-page coverage for my performance.”

  “You didn’t. Somebody nailed you. Somebody set you up with the press, It’s a lot of bull.”

  “It’s bullshit,” Damon blurted. “Right, Big Daddy?”

  “This is Jezzie,” I said to the kids. “We work together sometimes.” The kids were getting used to Jezzie, but they were still a little shy. Jannie was trying to hide behind her brother. Damon had both hands stuffed in his back pockets, just like his dad.

  Jezzie went down on her haunches; she got down to their size. She shook hands with Damon, then with Janelle. It was a good instinctive move on her part.

  “Your daddy is the best policeman I ever saw,” she told Damon.

  “I know that.” He accepted the compliment graciously.

  “I’m Janelle.” Janelle surprised me by offering her name to Jezzie.

  I could tell she wanted a hug. Janelle loves hugs more than anyone ever put on this earth. That’s where she got one of her many nicknames, “Velcro.”

  Jezzie sensed it, too. She reached out and hugged Jannie. It was a neat little scene to watch. Damon immediately decided to join in. It was the thing to do. It was as if their long-lost best friend had suddenly returned from the wars.

  After a minute or so, Jezzie stood up again. At that moment it struck me that she was a real nice person, and that I hadn’t met too many of those during the investigation. Her house visit was thoughtful, but also a little brave. Southeast is not a great neighborhood for white women to travel in, even one who was probably carrying a gun.

  “Well, I just stopped by for a few hugs.” She winked to me. “Actually, I have a case not too far from here. Now I’m off to be a workaholic again.”

  “How about some hot
coffee?” I asked her. I thought I could manage the coffee. Nana probably had some in the kitchen that was only five or six hours old.

  She squinted a look at me and she started to smile again.

  “Two nice kids, nice Sunday morning at home with them. You’re not such a tough guy after all.”

  “No, I’m a tough guy, too,” I said. “I just happen to be a tough guy who finds his way home by Sunday morning.”

  “Okay, Alex.” She kept her smile turned on. “Just don’t let this newspaper nonsense get you down. Nobody believes the funny pages, anyway. I’ve got to go. I’ll take a rain check on the coffee.”

  Jezzie Flanagan opened the front door and started to leave. She waved to the kids as the door was closing behind her.

  “So long, Big Daddy,” she said to me and grinned.


  AFTER JEZZIE FLANAGAN had finished her business in Southeast, she drove out to the farm where Gary Soneji had buried the two children. She had been there twice before, but a lot of things still bothered her about the farm in Maryland. She was obsessive as hell, anyway. She figured that nobody wanted to catch Soneji any more than she did.

  Jezzie ignored the crime scene signage and sped down the rutted dirt road to a cluster of buildings in disrepair. She distinctly remembered everything about the place. There was the main farmhouse, a garage for machinery, and the barn where the kids had been kept.

  Why this place? she asked herself. Why here, Soneji? What should it tell her about who he really is?

  Jezzie Flanagan had been a whiz-kid investigator since the day she’d first entered the Secret Service. She’d come there with an honors law degree from the University of Virginia, and Treasury had tried to steer her toward the FBI, where nearly half the agents had law degrees. But Jezzie had surveyed the situation and chosen the Service, anyway, where the law degree would make her stand out more. She’d worked eighty- and hundred-hour weeks from the beginning, right up to the present. She’d been a shooting star for one reason: she was smarter and tougher than any of the men she worked with, or the ones she worked for. She was more driven. But Jezzie had known from the beginning that, if she ever made a big mistake, her starship would crash. She’d known it. There was only one solution. She had to find Gary Soneji, somehow. She had to be the one.

  She walked the farmhouse grounds until darkness fell. Then she walked them again with a flashlight. Jezzie scribbled down notes, trying to find some missing connection. Maybe it did have something to do with the old Lindbergh case, the so-called crime of the century from the 1930s.

  Son of Lindbergh?

  The Lindbergh place in Hopewell, New Jersey, had been a farmhouse, too.

  Baby Lindbergh had been buried not far from the kidnap site.

  Bruno Hauptmann, the Lindbergh kidnapper, had been from New York City. Could the kidnapper in Washington be some kind of distant relative? Could he be from somewhere near Hopewell? Maybe Princeton? How could nothing have turned up on Soneji so far?

  Before she left the farm, Jezzie sat in her town car. She turned on the engine, the heat, and just sat there. Obsessing. Lost in her thoughts.

  Where was Gary Soneji? How had he disappeared?

  Nobody can just disappear nowadays. No one is that smart.

  Then she thought about Maggie Rose Dunne and “Shrimpie” Goldberg, and tears began to roll down her cheeks. She couldn’t stop sobbing. That was the real reason she’d come out to the farmhouse, she knew. Jezzie Flanagan had to let herself cry.


  MAGGIE ROSE was in complete darkness.

  She didn’t know how long she had been there. A long, long time, though. She couldn’t remember when she’d eaten last. Or when she’d seen or talked to anybody, except the voices inside her head.

  She wished somebody would come right now. She held that thought in her head—for hours.

  She even wished the old woman would come back and scream at her. She’d begun to wonder why she was being punished; what she’d done that was so wrong. Had she been bad, and deserved all this to happen to her? She was starting to think that she must have been a bad person for all these terrible things to be happening.

  She couldn’t cry again. Not even if she wanted to. She couldn’t cry anymore.

  A lot of the time, she thought she must be dead. Maggie Rose almost didn’t feel things now. Then she would pinch herself really hard. Even bite herself. One time she bit her finger until it bled. She tasted her own warm blood and it was weirdly wonderful. Her time in the dark seemed to go on forever. The darkness was a tiny room like a closet. She—

  Suddenly, Maggie Rose heard voices outside. She couldn’t hear well enough to understand what was being said, but there were definitely voices. The old woman? Must be. Maggie Rose wanted to call out, but she was frightened of the old woman. Her awful screaming, her threats, her scratchy voice that was worse than horror movies her mother didn’t even like her to watch. Worse than Freddy Krueger by miles.

  The voices stopped. She couldn’t hear anything, not even when she pressed her ear against the closet door. They had gone away. They were leaving her in there forever.

  She tried to cry, but no tears would come.

  Then Maggie Rose started to scream. The door suddenly burst open and she was blinded by the most beautiful light.


  ON THE NIGHT OF JANUARY 11, Gary Murphy was cozy and safe in his basement. Nobody knew that he was down there, but if snoopy Missy happened to open the basement door, he’d just flick on the lamp at his workbench. He was thinking everything through. One more time for good measure.

  He was becoming nicely obsessed with murdering Missy and Roni, but he thought that he wouldn’t do it just yet. Still, the fantasy was rich. To murder your own family had a certain homespun style to it. It wasn’t very imaginative, but the effect would be neat. The icy chill racing through the serene, dippity-doo suburban community. All the other families doing the most ironic thing—locking their doors, locking themselves in together.

  Around midnight he realized that his little family had gone to bed without him. No one had even bothered to call down to him. They didn’t care. A hollow roar was starting inside his head. He needed about a half-dozen Nuprins to stop the white noise for a while.

  Maybe he would torch the perfect little house on Central Avenue. Torching houses was good for the soul. He’d done it before; he’d do it again. God, his whole skull ached as if somebody’d been hitting it with a ball peen hammer. Was something physically the matter with him? Was it possible he was going mad this time?

  He tried to think about the Lone Eagle—Charles Lindbergh. That didn’t work, either. In his mind, he revisited the farmhouse in Hopewell Junction. No good. That mind-trip was getting old, too.

  He was world famous himself, for Chrissakes. He was famous now. Everybody in the world knew about him. He was a media star all over Planet Dearth.

  He finally left the cellar, and then the house in Wilmington. It was just past five-thirty in the morning. As he walked outside to the car, he felt like an animal, suddenly on the loose.

  He drove back to D.C. There was more work to do there. He didn’t want his public to be disappointed, did he?

  He thought he had a treat for everyone now. Don’t get comfortable with me!

  Around eleven that morning, Tuesday, Gary Murphy lightly tapped the front doorbell of a well-kept brick townhouse on the edge of Capitol Hill. Bing-bong went a polite door chime inside.

  The sheer danger of the situation, of his being in Washington again, gave him a nice chill. This was a lot better than being in hiding. He felt alive again, he could breathe, he had his own space.

  Vivian Kim kept the lock chain on, but she opened the door about a foot. She’d seen the familiar uniform of Washington’s PEPCO public utilities service through the peephole.

  Pretty lady, Gary remembered from the Washington Day School. Long black braids. Cute little upturned nose. She clearly didn’t recognize him as a bl
ond. No mustache. Little flesh off his cheeks and chin.

  “Yes? What is it? Can I help you?” she asked the man standing on her porch. Inside the house, jazzy music was playing. Thelonious.

  “I hope it’s the other way around.” He smiled pleasantly. “Somebody called about an overcharge on the electric.”

  Vivian Kim frowned and shook her head. She had a tiny map of Korea hanging from rawhide around her neck. “I didn’t call anybody. I know I didn’t call PEPCO.”

  “Well, somebody called us miss.”

  “Come back some other time,” Vivian Kim told him. “Maybe my boyfriend called. You’ll have to come back. I’m sorry.”

  Gary shrugged his shoulders. This was so delicious. He didn’t want it to end. “I guess. You can call us again if you like,” he said. “Get on the schedule again. It’s an overcharge, though. You paid too much.”

  “Okay. I hear you. I understand.”

  Vivian Kim slowly stripped away the chain and opened the door. Gary stepped into the apartment. He pulled a long hunting knife from under his work jacket.

  He pointed it at the teacher’s face. “Don’t scream. Do not scream, Vivian.”

  “How do you know my name?” she asked. “Who are you?”

  “Don’t raise your voice, Vivian. There’s no reason to be afraid…. I’ve done this before. I’m just your garden-variety robber.”

  “What do you want?” The teacher had begun to tremble.

  Gary thought for a second before he answered her scared-rabbit question.

  “I want to send out another message over the TV, I guess. I want the fame I so richly deserve,” he finally said. I want to be the scariest man in America. That’s why I work in the capital. I’m Gary. Don’t you remember me, Viv?”


  SAMPSON AND I raced down C Street in the heart of Capitol Hill. I could hear the breath inside my nose as I ran. My arms and legs felt disjointed.

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