Along came a spider, p.13
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       Along Came a Spider, p.13
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         Part #1 of Alex Cross series by James Patterson
Squad cars from the department and EMS ambulances had the street completely blocked off. We’d had to park on F Street and sprint the last couple of blocks. WJLA-TV was already there. So was CNN. Sirens screamed everywhere.

  I spotted a clique of reporters up ahead. They saw Sampson and me coming. We’re about as hard to miss as the Harlem Globetrotters in Tokyo.

  “Detective Cross? Dr. Cross?” the reporters called out, trying to slow us down.

  “No comment,” I waved them off. “From either of us. Get the fuck out of the way.”

  Inside Vivian Kim’s apartment, Sampson and I passed all the familiar faces—techies, forensics, the DOA gang in their ghoulish element.

  “I don’t want to do this anymore,” Sampson said.

  “Whole world’s flowing down the piss-tubes. It’s too much, even for me.”

  “We burn out,” I mumbled to him, “we burn out together.”

  Sampson grabbed my hand and held it. That told me he was as fucked up about this as he got. We went inside the first bedroom on the right side of the hallway. I tried to be still inside. I couldn’t do it.

  Vivian Kim’s bedroom was beautifully laid out. Lots of exquisite, black-and-white family photographs and art posters covered most of the wall space. An antique violin was hung on one wall. I didn’t want to look at the reason I was there. Finally, I had to.

  Vivian Kim was pinned to the bed with a long hunting knife. It was driven through her stomach. Both her breasts had been removed. Her pubic hair had been shaved. Her eyes had rolled back in her head, as if she had seen something unfathomable during her last moments.

  I let my eyes wander around the bedroom. I couldn’t look at Vivian Kim’s mutilated body. I stared at a splash of bright color on the floor. I caught my breath. Nobody had said anything about it on the way up. Nobody had noticed the most important clue. Fortunately, nobody had moved the evidence.

  “Look at this here.” I showed Sampson.

  Maggie Rose Dunne’s second sneaker was lying on Vivian Kim’s bedroom floor. The killer was leaving what the pathologists call “artistic touches.” He’d left an overt message this time—the signature of signatures. I was shaking as I bent down over the little girl’s sneaker. Here was the most sadistic humor at work. The pink sneaker, in shocking contrast to the bloody crime scene.

  Gary Soneji had been in the bedroom. Soneji was the project killer, too. He was The Thing. And he was back in town.

  CHAPTER 35

  GARY SONEJI was still in Washington, indeed. He was sending out special-delivery messages to his fans. There was a difference now. He was baiting us, too. Sampson and I got a dispensation from The Jefe: we could work on the kidnapping as long as it was linked to the other murder investigations. It definitely was.

  “This is our day off, so we must be having fun,” Sampson said to me as we walked the streets of Southeast. It was the thirteenth of January. Bitter cold. Folks had fires blazing in the garbage cans on almost every street corner. One of the brothers had FUC U 2 razor-cut on the back of his head. My sentiments exactly.

  “Mayor Monroe doesn’t call anymore. Doesn’t write,” I said to Samson. I watched my breath launch clouds in the freezing air.

  “See, there is a silver lining,” he said into the wind. “He’ll come around when we catch The Thing. He’ll be there to take all the bows for us.”

  We walked along, goofing on the situation and on each other. Sampson rapped lyrics from pop songs, something he does a lot. That morning, it was “Now That We’ve Found Love.” Heavy D & The Boyz. “Rev me up, rev me up, you’re my little buttercup,” Sampson kept saying, as if the lyrics made sense out of everything.

  We were canvassing Vivian Kim’s neighborhood, which was on the edge of Southeast. Canvassing a neighborhood is mind-numbing work, even for the young and uninitiated. “Did you see anyone or anything unusual yesterday?” we asked anybody dumb enough to open their doors for us. “Did you notice any strangers, strange cars, anything that sticks out in your mind? Let us decide whether it’s important.”

  As usual, nobody had seen a thing. Nada de nada. Nobody was happy to see us either, especially as we moved into Southeast on our canvass.

  To top it off, the temperature was about three degrees with the windchill. It was sleeting. The streets and sidewalks were covered with icy slush. A couple of times we joined the street people warming themselves over their garbage-can fires.

  “You motherfuckin’ cops always cold, even in the summer,” one of the young fucks said to us. Both Sampson and I laughed.

  We finally trudged back toward our car around six. We were beaten up. We’d blown a long day. Nothing good had come of it. Gary Soneji had disappeared into thin air again. I felt as if I were in a horror movie.

  “Want to go out a few extra blocks?” I asked Sampson. I was feeling desperate enough to try the slot machines in Atlantic City. Soneji was playing with us. Maybe he was watching us. Maybe the fucker was invisible.

  Sampson shook his head. “No mas, sugar. I want to drink at least a case of brew. Then I just might do some serious drinking.”

  He wiped slush off his sunglasses, then put them on again. It’s weird how well I know his every move. He’s been dusting his glasses like that since he was twelve. Through rain or sleet or snow.

  “Let’s do the extra blocks,” I said. “For Ms. Vivian. Least we can do.”

  “I knew you were going to say that.”

  We filed into the apartment of a Mrs. Quillie McBride at around six-twenty that night. Quillie and her friend Mrs. Scott were seated at the kitchen table. Mrs. Scott had something to tell us that she thought might help. We were there to listen to anything she had to say.

  If you ever go through D.C.’s Southeast, or the north section of Philadelphia, or Harlem in New York, on a Sunday morning, you’ll still see ladies like Mrs. McBride and her friend Willie Mae Randall Scott. These ladies wear blousy shirts and faded gabardine skirts. Their usual accoutrements include feathered hats and thick-heeled, lace-up shoes that bunch their feet like sausage-links. They are coming or going from various churches. In the case of Willie Mae, who is a Jehovah’s Witness, they distribute the Watchtower magazine.

  “I believe I can he’p y’all,” Mrs. Scott said to us in a soft, sincere voice. She was probably eighty years old, but very focused and clear in her delivery.

  “We’d appreciate that,” I said. The four of us sat around the kitchen table. A plate of oatmeal cookies had been set out for the occasion of anyone’s visit. A triptych with photos of the two murdered Kennedys and Martin Luther King was prominent on a kitchen wall.

  “I heard about the murder of the teacher,” Mrs. Scott said for Sampson’s and my benefit, “and, well, I saw a man driving around the neighborhood a month or so before the Turner murders. He was a white man. I am fortunate to still have a very good memory. I try to keep it that way by concentrating on whatever passes before these eyes. Ten years from today, I will be able to recall this interview on a moment-to-moment basis, detectives.”

  Her friend Mrs. McBride had pulled her chair beside Mrs. Scott. She didn’t speak at first, though she did take Mrs. Scott’s bulging arm in her hand.

  “It’s true. She will,” Quillie McBride said.

  “One week before the Turner murders, the same white man came through the neighborhood again,” Mrs. Scott continued. “This second time, he was going door to door. He was a salesman.”

  Sampson and I looked at each other. “What kind of salesman?” Sampson asked her.

  Mrs. Scott allowed her eyes to drift over Sampson’s face before she answered the question. I figured she was concentrating, making sure she remembered everything about him. “He was selling heating systems for the winter. I went over by his car and looked inside. A sales book of some sort was on the front seat. His company is called Atlantic Heating, out of Wilmington, Delaware.”

  Mrs. Scott looked from face to face, either to make sure that she was being clear, or that we were getting all of what she
had just said.

  “Yesterday, I saw the same car drive through the neighborhood. I saw the car the morning the woman on C Street was killed. I said to my friend here, ‘This can’t all be a coincidence, can it?’ Now, I don’t know if he’s the one you’re looking for, but I think you should talk to him.”

  Sampson looked at me. Then the two of us did a rare thing of late. We broke into smiles. Even the ladies decided to join in. We had something. We had a break, finally, the first of the case.

  “We’re going to talk to the traveling salesman,” I said to Mrs. Scott and Quillie McBride. “We’re going to Wilmington, Delaware.”

  CHAPTER 36

  GARY MURPHY got home at a little past five on the following afternoon, January 14. He’d gone into the office, just outside Wilmington. Only a few people had been there, and he’d planned to get some useless paperwork done. He had to make things look good for a little while longer.

  He’d ended up thinking about larger subjects. The master plan. Gary just couldn’t get serious about the paper blizzard of bills and invoices littering his desk. He kept picking up crumpled customer bills, glancing at names, amounts, addresses.

  Who in their right fucking mind could care about all the invoices? he was thinking to himself. It was all so brutally small-time, so dumb and petty. Which was why the job, and Delaware, were such a good hiding spot for him.

  So he accomplished absolutely nothing at the office, except blowing off a few hours. At least he’d picked up a present for Roni on the way home. He bought Roni a pink bike with training wheels and streamers. He added a Barbie Dream House. Her birthday party was set for six o’clock.

  Missy met him at the front door with a hug and a kiss. Positive reinforcement was her strong suit. The party gave her something to think about. She’d been off his back for days.

  “Great day, honey. I kid you not. Three home visits set up for next week. Count them, three,” Gary told her. What the hell. He could be charming when he wanted to be. Mr. Chips goes to Delaware.

  He followed Missy into the dining room, where she was setting out brightly colored plastic and paper for the party of parties. Missy had already hung a painted sheet on one wall—the kind they held up for football games at U.D., University Dumb. This one said: GO RONI—SEVEN OR BUST!

  “This is pure genius, hon. You can make something out of nothing. This all looks fantastic,” Gary said. “Things are sure looking up now.”

  Actually, he was starting to get a little depressed. He felt out of it and wanted to take a nap. The idea of Roni’s birthday party seemed exhausting suddenly. There sure hadn’t been any parties when he was a kid.

  The neighbors started to arrive right at six o’clock. That was good, he thought. It meant the kids really wanted to come. They liked Roni. He could see it on all of their little Balloonhead faces.

  Several of the parents stayed for the party. They were friends of his and Missy’s. He dutifully played bartender while Missy started the kids on an assortment of games: Duck-Duck-Goose, Musical Chairs, Pin the Tail.

  Everybody was having a good time. He looked at Roni, and she was like a spinning top.

  Gary had a recurring fantasy—he murdered everyone attending a child’s birthday party. A birthday party—or maybe a children’s Easter egg hunt. That made him feel a little better.

  CHAPTER 37

  THE HOUSE was two-story, white-painted brick, on a wooded half-lot. It was already surrounded by cars, station wagons, Jeeps, the family vehicles of suburbia.

  “This can’t be his house,” Sampson said as we parked on a side street. “The Thing doesn’t live here. Jimmy Stewart does.”

  We had found Gary Soneji—but it didn’t feel right. The monster’s house was a perfect suburban beauty, a gingerbread house on a well-maintained street in Wilmington, Delaware. It was a little less than twenty-four hours since we’d spoken to Mrs. Scott in D.C. In that time, we had tracked down Atlantic Heating in Wilmington. We had gathered the original Hostage Rescue Team together.

  Lights were shining through most of the house windows. A Domino’s delivery truck arrived at almost the same time that we did. A lanky blond kid ran to the door with four big pizza boxes in his outstretched arms.

  The delivery kid got paid, then the truck was gone as quickly as it had come.

  The fact that it was a nice house in a nice neighborhood made me nervous, even more leery about the next few minutes. Soneji had always been two steps ahead of us—somehow.

  “Let’s move,” I said to Special Agent Scorse. “This is it, folks. The front gates of hell.”

  Nine of us rushed the house—Scorse, Reilly, Craig, and two others from the Bureau, Sampson, myself, Jeb Klepner, Jezzie Flanagan. We were heavily armed and wore bulletproof vests. We wanted to end this. Right here. Right now.

  I entered through the kitchen. Scorse and I came in together. Sampson was a step behind. He didn’t look like a neighborhood dad arriving late for the party, either.

  “Who are you men? What’s going on?” a woman at the kitchen counter screamed as we burst inside.

  “Where is Gary Murphy?” I asked in a loud voice. I flashed my I.D. at the same time. “I’m Alex Cross. Police. We’re here in connection with the Maggie Rose Dunne kidnapping.”

  “Gary’s in the dining room,” a second woman, standing over a blender, said in a trembling voice. “Through here.” She pointed.

  We ran down the connecting hallway. Family pictures were up on the walls. A pile of unopened presents lay on the floor. We had our revolvers drawn.

  It was a terrifying moment. The children we saw were afraid. So were their mothers and fathers. There were so many innocent people here—just like Disney World, I was thinking. Just like the Washington Day School.

  Gary Soneji wasn’t anywhere in the dining room. Just more police, kids in birthday hats, pets, mothers and dads with their mouths open in disbelief.

  “I think Gary went upstairs,” one of the fathers finally said. “What’s going on here? What the hell is going on?”

  Craig and Reilly were already crashing back down the stairs into the front hallway.

  “Not up there,” Reilly yelled.

  One of the kids said, “I think Mr. Murphy went down to the cellar. What’d he do?”

  We ran back to the kitchen and down to the cellar. Scorse, Reilly, and myself. Sampson went back upstairs to double-check.

  No one was anywhere in the two small cellar rooms. There was a storm door to the outside. It was closed and locked from the outside.

  Sampson came down a moment later, two stairs at a clip. “I checked over the whole upstairs. He’s not there!”

  Gary Soneji had disappeared again.

  CHAPTER 38

  OKAY, let’s dial it up a notch! Let’s do some serious rock and roll. Let’s play for keeps now, Gary thought as he ran for it.

  He’d had escape plans in mind since he’d been fifteen or sixteen years old. He’d known the so-called authorities would come for him someday, somehow, somewhere. He’d seen it all in his mind, in his elaborate daydreams. The only question was when. And maybe, for what? For which of his crimes?

  Then they were there on Central Avenue in Wilmington! The end of the celebrated manhunt. Or was it the beginning?

  Gary was like a programmed machine from the moment he spotted the police. He almost couldn’t believe that what he’d fantasized so many times was actually happening. They were there, though. Special dreams do come true. If you’re young at heart.

  He had calmly paid the pizza delivery boy. Then he went down the stairs and out through the cellar. He used a special half-hidden door and went into the garage. He relocked the door from the outside. Another side door led to a tiny alley into the Dwyers’ yard. He relocked that door, also. Jimmy Dwyer’s snow boots were sitting on the porch steps. Snow was on the ground. He took his neighbor’s boots.

  He paused between his house and the Dwyers’. He thought about letting them catch him then and there—getting cau
ght—just like Bruno Hauptmann in the Lindbergh case. He loved that idea. But not yet. Not here.

  Then he was running away, down a tight row of alleys between the houses. Nobody but kids used the little alleyway, which was overgrown with high weeds and littered with soda cans.

  He felt as if he had tunnel vision. Must have something to do with the fear he felt in every inch of his body. Gary was afraid. He had to admit that he was. Face the adrenaline facts, pal.

  He ran through backyard after backyard, down good old Central Avenue. Then into the deep woods of Downing Park. He didn’t see a soul on the way.

  Only when he glanced back once could he see them moving toward his house. Saw the big black Kaffirs Cross and Sampson. The vastly overrated Manhunt. The Federal Bureau in all its glory.

  He was sprinting now, full out toward the Metro train station, which was four blocks from the house. This was his link to Philly, Washington, New York, the outside world.

  He must have made it in ten flat—something like that. He kept himself in good shape. Powerful legs and arms, a washboard-flat stomach.

  An old VW was parked at the station. It was always parked there—the trusty Bug from his unholy youth. The “scene of past crimes,” to put it mildly. Driven just enough to keep the battery alive. It was time for more fun, more games. The Son of Lindbergh was on the move again.

  CHAPTER 39

  SAMPSON AND I were still at the Murphy house at well past eleven o’clock. The press was gathered behind bright yellow ropes outside. So were a couple of hundred close friends and neighbors from around the community of Wilmington. The town had never had a bigger night.

  Another massive manhunt had already been set in motion along the Eastern Seaboard, but also west into Pennsylvania and Ohio. It seemed impossible that Gary Soneji/Murphy could get away a second time. We didn’t believe he could have planned this escape the way he’d planned the one out of Washington.

 
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