Along came a spider, p.17
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       Along Came a Spider, p.17
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         Part #1 of Alex Cross series by James Patterson

  “I’m glad you brought me to your house,” I said. “I mean that, Jezzie. I really am touched.”

  “Even if I practically had to kidnap you to get you over here?”

  “Fast motorcycle rides in the night. Beautiful, homey apartment. Annie Leibovitz–quality photographs. What other secrets do you have?”

  Jezzie moved a finger gently down and around my jawline, exploring my face. “I don’t want to have any secrets. That’s what I’d like. Okay?”

  I said yes. That was exactly the way I wanted it, too. It was time to open up to someone again. It was way past time, probably for both of us. Maybe we hadn’t looked it to the outside world, but we’d been lonely and inner-driven for too long. That was the simple truth we were helping each other to get in touch with.

  Early the next morning, we rode the bike back to my house in Washington. The wind was cold and rough on our faces. I held on to her chest as we floated through the dim, gray light of early dawn. The few people who were up, driving or walking to work, stared at us. I probably would have stared, too. What a damn fine and handsome couple we were.

  Jezzie dropped me exactly where she’d picked me up. I leaned close against her and the warm, vibrating bike. I kissed her again. Her cheeks, her throat, finally her lips. I thought I could stay there all morning. Just like that, on the mean streets of Southeast. I had the passing thought that it should always be like this. Why not?

  “I have to get inside,” I finally said.

  “Yep. I know you do. Go home, Alex,” Jezzie said. “Give your babies a kiss for me.” She looked a little sad as I turned away and headed in, though.

  Don’t start something you can’t finish, I remembered.


  THE REST OF THAT DAY, I burned the candle at the other end. It felt a little irresponsible, but that was good for me. It’s all right to put the weight of the world on your shoulders sometimes, if you know how to take it off.

  As I drove out to Lorton Prison, the temperature was below freezing, but the sun was out. The sky was bright, almost blinding blue. Beautiful and hopeful. The pathetic fallacy lives in the nineties.

  I thought about Maggie Rose Dunne that morning on my drive. I had to conclude that she was dead by now. Her father was raising all kinds of hell through the media. I couldn’t blame him very much. I’d spoken to Katherine Rose a couple of times on the phone. She hadn’t given up hope. She told me she could “feel” that her little girl was still alive. It was the saddest thing to hear.

  I tried to prepare myself for Soneji/Murphy, but I was distracted. Images from the night before kept flashing by my eyes. I had to remind myself that I was driving a car in midday Metro D.C. traffic, and I was working.

  That was when a bright idea hit me: a testable theory about Gary Soneji/Murphy that seemed to make some sense in psych terms.

  Having an interesting theory du jour helped my concentration at the prison. I was taken up to the sixth floor to see Soneji. He was waiting for me. He looked as if he hadn’t slept all night, either. It was my turn to make something happen.

  I went at him for a full hour that afternoon, maybe even a little longer. I pushed hard. Probably harder than with any of my patients.

  “Gary, have you ever found receipts in your pockets—hotels, restaurants, store purchases—but you have no memory of spending the money?”

  “How did you know that?” His eyes lit up at my question. Something like relief washed over his face. “I told them I wanted you to be my doctor. I don’t want to see Dr. Walsh anymore. All he’s good for is scrip for chloral hydrate.”

  “I’m not sure that’s a good idea. I’m a psychologist, not a psychiatrist like Dr. Walsh. I’m also part of the team that helped arrest you.”

  He shook his head. “I know all that. You’re also the only one who’s listened before making final judgments. I know you hate me—the idea that I took those two children, the other things I’m supposed to have done. But you listen, at least. Walsh only pretends to listen.”

  “You need to continue seeing Dr. Walsh,” I told him.

  “That’s fine. I guess I understand the politics here by now. Just please, don’t leave me in this hellhole by myself.”

  “I won’t. I’m with you all the way from here on. We’ll continue to talk just like this.”

  I asked Soneji/Murphy to tell me about his childhood.

  “I don’t remember a whole lot about growing up. Is that very strange?” He wanted to talk. It was in my hands, my judgment, to determine whether I was hearing the truth, or a set of elaborately constructed lies.

  “That’s normal for some people. Not remembering. Sometimes, things come back when you talk about them, when you verbalize.”

  “I know the facts and statistics. Okay. Birthdate, February twenty-fourth, nineteen fifty-seven. Birthplace, Princeton, New Jersey. Things like that. Sometimes I feel like I learned all that while I was growing up, though. I’ve had experiences where I cannot separate dreams from reality. I’m not sure which is which. I’m really not sure.”

  “Try to give me your first impressions,” I told him.

  “Not a lot of fun and laughs,” he said. “I’ve always had insomnia. I could never sleep more than an hour or two at a time. I can’t remember not being tired. And, depressed—like I’ve been trying to dig myself out of a hole my entire life. Not to try to do your job, but I don’t think very highly of myself.”

  Everything we knew about Gary Soneji depicted the opposite persona: high energy, positive attitude, an extremely high opinion of himself.

  Gary went on to sketch a terrifying childhood, which included physical abuse from his stepmother as a small child; sexual abuse from his father as he got older.

  Over and over, he described how he was forced to split himself off from the anxiety and conflict that surrounded him. His stepmother had come with her two children in 1961. Gary was four years old, and already moody. It got worse from that point on. How much worse, he wasn’t willing to tell me yet.

  As part of his workup under Dr. Walsh, Soneji/Murphy had taken Wechsler Adult, Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory, and Rorschach tests. Where he sailed completely off the scales was in the area of creativity. This was measured by single-sentence completion. He scored equally high in both verbal and written responses.

  “What else, Gary? Try to go as far back as you can. I can only help if I understand you better.”

  “There were always these ‘lost hours.’ Time I couldn’t account for,” he said. His face had been drawing tighter and tighter as he spoke. The veins in his neck protruded. Light sweat rolled over his face.

  “They punished me because I couldn’t remember…,” he said.

  “Who did? Who punished you?”

  “My stepmother mostly.”

  That probably meant most of the damage had happened when he was very young, while his stepmother did the disciplining.

  “A dark room,” he said.

  “What happened in the dark room? What kind of room was it?”

  “She put me there, down in the basement. It was our cellar, and she put me down there almost every day.”

  He was beginning to hyperventilate. This was extremely difficult for him, a condition I’d seen many times with child-abuse victims. He shut his eyes. Remembering. Seeing a past he never really wanted to encounter again.

  “What would happen down in the basement?”

  “Nothing… nothing happened. I was just punished all the time. Left by myself.”

  “How long were you kept down there?”

  “I don’t know… I can’t remember everything!”

  His eyes opened halfway. He watched me through narrow slits.

  I wasn’t sure how much more he could take. I had to be careful. I needed to ease him into the tougher parts of his history, with the feeling that I cared, that he could trust me, that I was listening.

  “Was it for a whole day sometimes? Overnight?”

  “Oh, no. No. It was f
or a long, long time. So I wouldn’t forget anymore. So I’d be a good boy. Not the Bad Boy.”

  He looked at me, but said nothing more. I sensed that he was waiting to hear something from me.

  I tried praise, which seemed the appropriate response. “That was good, Gary, a good start. I know how hard this is for you.”

  As I looked at the grown man I imagined a small boy kept in a darkened cellar. Every day. For weeks that must have seemed even longer than that. Then I thought about Maggie Rose Dunne. Was it possible that he was keeping her somewhere and that she was still alive? I needed to get the darkest secrets out of his head, and needed to do it faster than it’s ever done in therapy. Katherine Rose and Thomas Dunne deserved to know what had happened to their little girl.

  What happened to Maggie Rose, Gary? Remember Maggie Rose?

  This was a very risky time in our session. He could become frightened and refuse to see me again if he sensed that I was no longer a “friend.” He might withdraw. There was even a chance of a complete psychotic break. He could become catatonic. Then everything would be lost.

  I needed to keep praising Gary for his efforts. It was important that he look forward to my visits. “What you’ve told me so far should be extremely helpful,” I said to him. “You really did a great job. I’m impressed by how much you’ve forced yourself to remember.”

  “Alex,” he said as I started to leave, “honest to God, I didn’t do anything horrible or bad. Please help me.”

  A polygraph test had been scheduled for him that afternoon. Just the thought of the lie detector made Gary nervous, but he swore he was glad to take it.

  He told me I could stay and wait for the results if I wanted to. I wanted to very much.

  The polygraph operator was a particularly good one who had been brought from D.C. for the testing. Eighteen questions were to be asked. Fifteen of those were “controls.” The other three were to be used for scoring the lie detector test.

  Dr. Campbell met with me about forty minutes after Soneji/Murphy had been taken down for his polygraph. Campbell was flushed with excitement. He looked as if he might have jogged from wherever they had staged the test. Something big had happened.

  “He got the highest score possible,” Campbell told me. “He passed with flying colors. Plus tens. Gary Murphy could be telling the truth!”


  GARY MURPHY could be telling the truth!

  I held a command performance in the boardroom inside Lorton Prison the following afternoon. The important audience included Dr. Campbell from the prison, federal District Attorney James Dowd, a representative from the governor of Maryland’s office, two more attorneys from the attorney general’s office in Washington, and Dr. James Walsh, from the state’s health board, as well as the prison’s advisory staff.

  It had been an ordeal to get them together. Now that I had succeeded, I couldn’t lose them. I wouldn’t get another chance to ask for what I needed.

  I felt as if I were back taking my orals at Johns Hopkins. I was dancing fast on the high wire. I believed the entire Soneji/Murphy investigation was at stake, right here in this room.

  “I want to try regressive hypnosis on him. There’s no risk, but there’s a chance for high reward,” I announced to the group. “I’m certain Soneji/Murphy will be a good subject, that we’ll find out something we can use. Maybe we’ll learn what happened to the missing girl. Certainly something about Gary Murphy.”

  Several complex jurisdictional questions had already been raised by the case. One lawyer had told me the issues would make for an excellent bar-exam question. Since state lines had been crossed, the kidnapping and murder of Michael Goldberg had fallen under federal jurisdiction and would be tried in federal court. The killings in McDonald’s would be tried in a Westmoreland court. Soneji/Murphy could also be tried in Washington for one or more of the killings he had apparently committed in Southeast.

  “What would you ultimately hope to accomplish?” Dr. Campbell wanted to know. He’d been supportive, and was continuing to be so. Like me, he read skepticism on several faces, especially Walsh’s. I could see why Gary didn’t care for Walsh. He seemed mean-spirited, petty, and proud of it.

  “A lot of what he’s told us so far suggests a severe dissociative reaction. He appears to have suffered a pretty horrible childhood. There was physical abuse, maybe sexual abuse as well. He may have begun to split off his psyche to avoid pain and fear back then. I’m not saying that he’s a multiple, but it’s a possibility. He had the kind of childhood that could produce such a rare psychosis.”

  Dr. Campbell picked up. “Dr. Cross and I have talked about the possibility that Soneji/Murphy undergoes ‘fugue states.’ Psychotic episodes that relate to both amnesia and hysteria. He talks about ‘lost days,’ ‘lost weekends,’ even ‘lost weeks.’ In such a fugue state, a patient can wake in a strange place and have no idea how he got there, or what he had been doing for a prolonged period. In some cases, the patients have two separate personalities, often antithetical personalities. This can also happen in temporal lobe epilepsy.”

  “What are you guys, a tag team?” Walsh grumped from his seat. “Lobe epilepsy. Give me a break, Marion. The more you fool around like this, the better his chance of getting off in a courtroom,” Walsh warned.

  “I’m not fooling around,” I said to Walsh. “Not my style.”

  The D.A. spoke up, intervening between Walsh and me. James Dowd was a serious man in his late thirties or early forties. If Dowd got to try the case of Soneji/Murphy, he would soon be an extremely famous attorney.

  “Isn’t there a possibility that he’s created this apparently psychotic condition for our benefit?” Dowd asked. “That he’s a psychopath, and nothing more than that?”

  I glanced around the table before answering his questions. Dowd clearly wanted to hear our answers; he wanted to learn the truth. The representative from the governor’s office seemed skeptical and unconvinced, but open-minded. The attorney general’s group was neutral so far. Dr. Walsh had already heard enough from me and Campbell.

  “That’s a definite possibility,” I said. “It’s one of the reasons I’d like to try the regressive hypnosis. For one thing, we can see if his stories remain consistent.”

  “If he’s susceptible to hypnosis,” Walsh interjected. “And if you can tell whether or not he’d been hypnotized.”

  “I suspect that he is susceptible,” I answered quickly.

  “And I have my doubts that he is. Frankly, I have my doubts about you, Cross. I don’t care that he likes to talk to you. Psychiatry isn’t about liking your doctor.”

  “What he likes is that I listen.” I glared across the table at Walsh. It took a lot of self-control not to jump on the officious bastard.

  “What are the other reasons for hypnotizing the prisoner?” the governor’s representative spoke up.

  “Frankly, we don’t know enough about what he’s done during these fugue states,” Dr. Campbell said. “Neither does he. Neither do his wife and family, whom I’ve interviewed several times now.”

  I added, “We’re also not sure how many personalities might be operating…. The other reason for hypnosis”—I paused to let what I was about to say sink in—“is that I do want to ask him about Maggie Rose Dunne. I want to try and find out what he did with Maggie Rose.”

  “Well, we’ve heard your arguments, Dr. Cross. Thank you for your time and efforts here,” James Dowd said at the end of the presentation. “We’ll have to let you know.”

  I decided to take things into my own hands that evening.

  I called a reporter I knew and trusted at the Post. I asked him to meet me at Pappy’s Diner on the edge of Southeast. Pappy’s was one place where we would never be spotted, and I didn’t want anyone to know we’d met. For both our sakes.

  Lee Kovel was a graying yuppie, and kind of an asshole, but I liked him. Lee wore his emotions on his sleeve. His petty jealousies, his bitterness about the sad state of journalism, his b
leeding-heart tendencies, his occasional arch-conservative traits. It was all out there for the world to see and react to.

  Lee plopped down next to me at the counter. He was wearing a gray suit and light blue running shoes. Pappy’s draws a real nice cross-section: black, Hispanic, Korean, working-class whites who service Southeast in some way or other. But no one anything like Lee.

  “I stick out like a sore thumb in here,” he complained. “I’m way too cool for this place.”

  “Now who’s going to see you here? Bob Woodward? Evans and Novak?”

  “Very funny, Alex. What’s on your mind? Why didn’t you call me when this story was hot? Before this sucker got caught?”

  “Would you give this man some hot, very black coffee,” I said to the counterman. “I need to wake him up.” I turned back to Lee. I’m going to hypnotize Soneji inside the prison. I’m going looking for Maggie Rose Dunne in his subconscious. You can have the exclusive. But you owe me one,” I told Lee.

  Lee Kovel almost spit out his reaction. “Bullshit! Let’s hear it all, Alex. I think you left out some parts.”

  “Right. I’m working to get permission to hypnotize Soneji. There are a lot of petty politics involved. If you leak the story in the Post, I think it will happen. The theory of self-fulfilling prophecies. I’ll get permission. Then you get an exclusive.”

  The coffee came in a beautiful old diner cup. Light brown with a thin blue line under the rim. Lee slurped the java, thoughtful as hell. He seemed amused that I was trying to manipulate the established order in D.C. It appealed to his bleeding heart.

  “And if you do hear something from Gary Soneji, I’ll be the second to know. After yourself, Alex.”

  “You drive a hard bargain, but yeah. That’ll be our deal. Think about it Lee. It’s for a worthy cause. Finding out about Maggie Rose, not to mention your career.”

  I left Kovel to finish his Pappy’s coffee and begin to shape his story. Apparently, that’s what he did. It appeared in the morning edition of the Post.

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