Along came a spider, p.15
Along Came a Spider,
Part #1 of Alex Cross series by James Patterson
STATE TROOPERS Mick Fescoe and Bobby Hatfield were about to enter the McDonald’s when gunshots sounded from the dining room. Gunshots? At lunchtime in McDonald’s? What the hell was going on!
Fescoe was tall, a hulk, forty-four years old. Hatfield was nearly twenty years younger. He’d been a state trooper for only about a year. The two troopers shared a similar sense of black humor, in spite of their age difference. They had already become tight friends.
“Holy shit,” Hatfield whispered when the fireworks started inside McDonald’s. He went into a firing crouch he hadn’t learned that long ago, and had never used off the target range.
“Listen to me, Bobby,” Fescoe said to him.
“Don’t worry, I’m listening.”
“You head toward that exit over there.” Fescoe pointed to an exit up near the cash registers. “I’ll go around the left side. You wait for me to make a move.
“Do nothing until I go at him. Then, if you have a clear shot, go for it. Don’t think about it. Just pull the trigger, Bobby.”
Bobby Hatfield nodded. “I got you.” Then the two split up.
Officer Mick Fescoe couldn’t get his breath as he ran around the far side of the McDonald’s. He stayed close to the brick wall, brushing his back against it. He’d been telling himself for months to get his ass back in shape. He was puffing already. He felt a little dizzy. That he didn’t need. Dizziness, and playing High Noon with a creep, was a real bad combination.
Mick Fescoe got up close to the door. He could hear the nut case shouting inside.
There was something funny, though, as if the creep were operating by remote. His movements were very staccato. His voice was high-pitched, like a young boy’s.
“I’m Gary Soneji. You all got that? I’m The Man himself. You folks have found me, so to speak. You’re all big heroes.”
Was it possible? Fescoe wondered as he listened near the door. The kidnapper Soneji, here in Wilkinsburg? Whoever it was, he definitely had a gun. One person had been shot. A man was spread-eagled on the floor. He wasn’t moving.
Fescoe heard another shot. Piercing screams of terror echoed from inside the packed McDonald’s restaurant.
“You have to do something!” a man in a light green Dolphins parka yelled at the state trooper.
You’re telling me, Officer Mick Fescoe muttered to himself. People were always real brave with cops’ lives. You first, officer. You’re the one getting twenty-five hundred a month for this.
Mick Fescoe tried to control his breathing. When he succeeded; he moved up to the glass doorway. He said a silent prayer and spun through the glass door.
He saw the gunman immediately. A white guy, already turned toward him. As if he’d been expecting him. As if he’d planned on this.
“Boom!” Gary Soneji yelled. At the same time, he pulled the trigger.
NONE OF US had more than a couple of hours of sleep, some less than that. We were groggy and out of it as we cruised down U.S. Highway 22.
Gary Soneji/Murphy had been “sighted” several times in the area south of us. He had become the bogeyman for half the people in America. I knew that he relished the role.
Jezzie Flanagan, Jeb Klepner, Sampson and I traveled in a blue Lincoln sedan. Sampson tried to sleep. I was the designated driver for the first shift.
We were passing through Murrysville, Pennsylvania, when an emergency call came over the radio at ten past noon.
“All units, we have a multiple shooting!” the dispatcher said with a flurry of radio static. “A man claiming to be Gary Soreji has shot at least two people inside a McDonald’s in Wilkinsburg. He has at least sixty hostages trapped inside the restaurant at this time.”
Less than thirty minutes later we arrived at the scene in Wilkinsburg, Pennsylvania. Sampson shook his head in disgust and amazement. “Does this asshole know how to throw a party or what?”
“Is he trying to kill himself? Is this suicide time?” Jezzie Flanagan wanted to know.
“I’m not surprised by anything he does, but McDonald’s fits. Look at all the children. It’s like the school, like Disney World,” I said to them.
Across the street from the restaurant, on the roof of a Kmart, I could see police or army snipers. They had high-powered rifles aimed in the direction of the golden arches on the front window.
“It seems just like the McDonald’s massacre a few years back. The one in southern California,” I said to Sampson and Jezzie.
“Don’t say that,” Jezzie whispered, “not even as a joke.”
“I’m saying it, and it isn’t any joke.”
We started to hurry toward the McDonald’s. After all this, we didn’t want Soneji shot dead.
We were being filmed. Television vans were double-parked everywhere, affiliates from all three networks. They were shooting film of everything that moved or talked. The whole mess was as bad a deal as I’d seen. It certainly reminded me of the McDonald’s shootings in California; a man named James Huberty had killed twenty-one people there. Was that what Soneji/Murphy wanted us to think?
An FBI section chief came running up to us. It was Kyle Craig, who’d been at the Murphy house in Wilmington.
“We don’t know if it’s him for sure,” he said. “This guy’s dressed like a farmer. Dark hair, beard. Claims to be Soneji. But it could be some other nut.”
“Let me get a look,” I said to Craig. “He asked for me down in Florida. He knows I’m a psychologist. Maybe I can talk to him now.”
Before Craig could answer, I had moved past him toward the restaurant. I inched my way up beside a trooper and a couple of local cops crouched near the side entrance. I flashed my badge case at them. Said I was from Washington. No sound was coming from inside the McDonald’s. I had to talk him back to earth. No suicide. No big flame-out at Mickey D’s.
“Is he making any sense?” I asked the trooper. “Is he coherent?”
The trooper was young and his eyes were glazed. “He shot my partner. I think my partner’s dead,” the trooper said. “Dear God in this world.”
“We’ll get in there and help your partner,” I told the trooper. “Is the man with the gun making sense when he talks? Is he coherent?”
“He’s talking about being the kidnapper from D.C. You can follow what he says. He’s bragging about it. Says he wants to be somebody important.”
The gunman had control of the sixty or more people inside the McDonald’s. It was silent in there. Was it Soneji/Murphy? It sure fit. The kids and their mothers. The hostage situation. I remembered all the pictures on his bathroom wall. He wanted to be the picture other lonely boys hung up.
“Soneji!” I called out. “Are you Gary Soneji?”
“Who the hell are you?” a shout came right back from inside. “Who wants to know?”
“I’m Detective Alex Cross. From Washington. I have a feeling you know all about the latest hostage-rescue decision. We won’t negotiate with you. So you know what happens from here on.”
“I know all the rules, Detective Cross. It’s all public information, isn’t it. The rules don’t always apply,” Gary Soneji shouted back. “Not to me, they don’t. Never have.”
“They do here,” I said firmly. “You can bet your life on it.”
“Are you willing to bet all these lives, Detective? I know another rule. Women and children go first! You follow me? Women and children have a special place with me.”
I didn’t like the sound of his voice. I didn’t like what he was saying.
I needed Soneji to understand that under no circumstances was he getting away. There would be no negotiations. If he started shooting again, we would take him down. I remembered other siege situations like this that I’d been involved in. Soneji was more complicated, smarter. He sounded as if he had nothing to lose.
“I don’t want anyone else hurt! I don’t want you hurt,” I told him in a clear, strong voice. I was beginning to sweat. I could feel it inside my
“That’s very touching. I am moved by what you just said. My heart just skipped a beat. Really,” he said.
Our talk had sure become conversational in a hurry.
“You know what I mean, Gary.” I softened my voice. I spoke as if he were a frightened, anxious patient.
“Certainly I do, Alex.”
“There are a lot of people out here with guns. No one can control them if this escalates. I can’t. Even you can’t. There could be an accident. That, we don’t want.”
It was silent inside again. The thought pounding in my head was that if Soneji was suicidal, he’d end it here. He’d have his final shoot-out right now, his final blaze of celebrity. We’d never know what had set him off. We would never know what had happened to Maggie Rose Dunne.
“Hello, Detective Cross.”
Suddenly, he was in the doorway, about five feet away from me. He was right there. A gunshot rang from one of the rooftops. Soneji spun and grabbed his shoulder. He’d been hit by one of the snipers.
I leaped forward and grabbed Soneji in both arms. My right shoulder crunched into his chest. Lawrence Taylor never made a surer tackle.
We fell hard to the concrete. I didn’t want anyone shooting him dead now. I had to talk to him. We had to find out about Maggie Rose.
As I held him on the ground, he twisted around and stared into my face. Blood from his shoulder was smeared over both of us.
“Thank you for saving my life,” he said. “Someday, I’ll kill you for it, Detective Cross.”
THE LAST SOUTHERN GENTLEMAN
“MY NAME IS BOBBI,” she had been taught to say. Always her new name. Never the old one.
Never, ever, Maggie Rose.
She was locked inside a dark van, or a covered truck. She wasn’t sure which. She had no idea where she was now. How far or how close to her home. She didn’t know how long it had been since she’d been taken away from her school.
Her thinking was clearer now. Almost back to normal. Someone had brought her clothes, which had to mean she wasn’t going to be hurt right away. Otherwise, why would they bother with the clothes?
The van or truck was filthy dirty. It had no rug or covering on the floor. It smelled like onions. Food must have been kept there. Where did they grow onions? Maggie Rose tried to remember. New Jersey and upstate New York. She thought there was also the smell of potatoes. Maybe turnips or sweet potatoes.
When she put it all together, when she focused her mind, Maggie Rose thought she was probably being held somewhere down South.
What else did she know? What else could she figure out?
She wasn’t being drugged anymore, not since the beginning. She didn’t think Mr. Soneji had been around for a few days. The scary old lady hadn’t been there, either.
They seldom talked to her. When she was spoken to, they called her Bobbi. Why Bobbi?
She was being so good about everything, but sometimes she needed to cry. Like now. She was choking on her own sobs. Not wanting anybody to hear her.
There was only one thing that gave her strength. It was so simple, but it was powerful.
She was alive.
She wanted to stay alive more than anything.
Maggie Rose hadn’t noticed that the truck was slowing down. It was bumpy going for a while. Then the vehicle came to a full stop.
She heard someone getting out of the cab up front. Muffled words were spoken. She’d been told not to talk in the truck, or she’d be gagged again.
Someone pushed open the sliding door. Sunlight burst in on her. She couldn’t see anything at first.
When she finally could make something out, Maggie Rose couldn’t believe her eyes.
“Hello,” she said in the softest whisper, almost as if she had no voice. “My name is Bobbi.”
IT TURNED OUT to be another very long day in Wilkinsburg, Pennsylvania. We interviewed each person who had been kept hostage inside the McDonald’s. The FBI, meanwhile, had taken custody of Soneji/Murphy.
I stayed over that night. So did Jezzie Flanagan. We were together for a second night in a row. Nothing I wanted more.
As soon as we got inside a room at the Cheshire Inn, in nearby Millvale, Jezzie said, “Will you just hold me for a minute or two, Alex. I probably look a little more stable than I really feel.”
I liked holding her, and being held back. I liked the way she smelled. I liked the way she fit into my arms. Everything still felt electric between us.
I was excited by the thought of being with her again. There have been only a couple of people I can open up to. No woman since Maria. I had a feeling Jezzie could be one of those people, and I needed to be connected with someone again. It had taken me a while to figure that one out.
“Isn’t this weird?” she whispered. “Two cops in hot pursuit.” Her body was trembling as I held her. Her hand softly stroked my arm.
I had never been a committed one-night-stand type, and I thought that I probably wouldn’t start now. That raised some problems and theoretical questions that I wasn’t ready to deal with yet.
Jezzie closed her eyes. “Hold me for one more minute,” she whispered. “You know what’s really nice? Being with someone who understands what you’ve been through. My husband never understood The Job.”
“Me neither. In fact, I understand it less every day,” I joked. But I was partly telling the truth.
I held Jezzie for a lot longer than a couple of minutes. She had a startling, ageless beauty. I liked looking at her.
“This is so strange, Alex. Nice strange, but strange,” she said. “Is this whole thing a dream?”
“Can’t be a dream. My middle name is Isaiah. You didn’t know that.”
Jezzie shook her head. “I knew your middle name was Isaiah. I saw it on a report from the Bureau. Alexander Isaiah Cross.”
“I see how you got to the top,” I said to her. “What else do you know about me?”
“All in good time,” Jezzie said. She touched a finger to my lips.
The Cheshire was a picturesque country inn about ten miles north of Wilkinsburg. Jezzie had run in to get us a room. So far, no one had seen us together at the inn, which was fine by both of us.
Our room was in a whitewashed carriage house that was detached from the main building. It was filled with authentic-looking antiques, including a hand loom and several quilts.
There was a wood-burning fireplace, and we started a fire. Jezzie ordered champagne from room service.
“Let’s celebrate. Let’s do up the town,” she said as she put down the phone receiver. “We deserve something special. We got the bad guy.”
The inn, the corner room, everything was just about perfect. A bay window looked down over a snow-covered lawn, to a lake slicked with ice. A steep mountain range loomed behind the lake.
We sipped champagne in front of the blazing fire. I’d been worried about the aftereffects of our night in Wilmington, but there were none. We talked easily, and when it got quiet, that was all right, too.
We ordered a late dinner.
The room-service guy was clearly uncomfortable as he set up our dinner trays in front of the fire. He couldn’t get the warming oven open; and he nearly dropped an entire tray of food. Guess he’d never seen a living, breathing taboo before.
“It’s okay,” Jezzie said to the man. “We’re both cops and this is perfectly legal. Trust me on it.”
We talked for the next hour and a half. It reminded me of being a kid, having a friend over for the night. We both let our hair down a little, then a lot. There wasn’t much self-consciousness between us. She got me talking about Damon and Jannie and wouldn’t let me stop.
Supper was roast beef with something masquerading as Yorkshire pudding. It didn’t matter. When Jezzie finished the last bite, she started to laugh. We were both doing that a lot.
“Why did I finish all that food? I don’t even lik
“What do we do now?” I asked her. “In the spirit of fun and celebration.”
“I don’t know. What are you up for? I’ll bet they have really neat board games back at the main building. I’m one of a hundred living people who knows how to play Parcheesi.”
Jezzie craned her neck so she could see out the window. “Or, we could hike down by the lake. Sing ‘Winter Wonderland.’”
“Yeah. We could do some ice-skating. I ice-skate. I’m a wizard on skates. Was that in my FBI report?”
Jezzie grinned and slapped her knees. “That I’d like to see. I’d pay real good money to see you skate.”
“Forgot my skates, though.”
“Oh, well. What else? I mean, I like you too much, I respect you too much, to let you think I might be interested in your body.”
“To be absolutely truthful and frank, I’m a little interested in your body,” I said. The two of us kissed, and it still felt pretty good to me. The fire crackled. The champagne was ice-cold. Fire and ice. Yin and yang. All kinds of opposites attracting. Wildfire in the wilds.
We didn’t get to sleep until seven the following morning. We even walked down to the lake, where we skated on our shoes in the moonlight.
Jezzie leaned in and she kissed me in the middle of the lake. Very serious kiss. Big-girl kiss.
“Oh, Alex,” she whispered against my cheek, “I think this is going to be real trouble.”
GARY SONEJI/MURPHY was remanded to Lorton Federal Prison in the northern part of Virginia. We began hearing rumors that something had happened to him there, but no one from the Washington Police Department was allowed to see him. Justice and the FBI had him, and they weren’t letting go of their prize.
From the moment it was revealed that he was being kept at Lorton, the prison was picketed. The same thing had occurred when Ted Bundy was imprisoned in Florida. Men, women, and schoolchildren assembled outside the prison parking area. They chanted emotional slogans throughout the day and night. They marched and carried lighted candles and placards.
Along Came a Spider by James Patterson / Mystery & Detective / Thrillers & Crime / History & Fiction have rating 4 out of 5 / Based on32 votes