Along came a spider, p.21
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       Along Came a Spider, p.21

         Part #1 of Alex Cross series by James Patterson
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  “Well, sir yourself, we’re going in the back door, aren’t we? We’re the back-door men.” Sampson grinned for the camera. He didn’t take off his shades.

  We finally made it to a service elevator, and tried to keep the reporters out of the same car, which wasn’t easy.

  “We have a confirmed rumor that Anthony Nathan is going for a temporary-

  insanity plea. Any comment on that?”

  “None at all. Ask Anthony Nathan.”

  “Detective Cross, will you take the stand to say Gary Murphy isn’t insane?”

  The ancient doors finally shut. The elevator started to rumble up toward the seventh floor, “Seventh Heaven,” as it’s known in the trade.

  The seventh had never been quieter, or more under control. The usual train-station scene of policemen, young thugs and their families, hardened crooks, lawyers and judges, had been stemmed by an order restricting the floor to the single case. This was the big one. “Trial of the Century.” Wasn’t that the way Gary Soneji wanted it?

  In the absence of chaos, the Fed Building was like an elderly person rising from bed in the morning. All the wrinkles and bruises were visible in the early-morning light that streamed from cathedral windows on the east side of the floor.

  We arrived just in time to see the prosecutor enter the courtroom. Mary Warner was a diminutive thirty-six-year-old U.S. attorney from the Sixth Circuit. She was supposed to be the courtroom equal of defense lawyer Anthony Nathan. Like Nathan, she had never tasted defeat, at least not in any significant case. Mary Warner had a glowing reputation for tireless preparation, and faultless, highly persuasive courtroom demeanor. A losing opponent had said, “It’s like playing tennis with somebody who always hits it back. Your best spin shot—back it comes. Your gamer—it comes back. Sooner or later, she beats you into the ground.”

  Supposedly, Ms. Warner had been handpicked by Jerrold Goldberg, and Goldberg could have had any prosecutor he chose. He had chosen her over James Dowd and other early favorites for the job.

  Carl Monroe was there, too. Mayor Monroe couldn’t stay away from the crowds. He saw me, but didn’t come over, just flashed his patented smile across the broad concourse.

  If I hadn’t known exactly where I stood with him, I did now. My appointment to divisional chief would be my last upgrade. They’d done that to prove I had been a good choice for the Hostage Rescue Team, to validate their decision, and to cover up any possible questions about my conduct in Miami.

  Leading up to the trial day, the big news around Washington had been that Secretary of the Treasury Goldberg was working on the prosecution case himself. That, and Anthony Nathan being the defense attorney.

  Nathan had been described in the Post as a “ninja warrior in court.” He had regularly been making front-page news since the day he’d been retained by Soneji/Murphy. Nathan was a subject that Gary wouldn’t talk to me about. On one occasion, he’d said, “I need a good lawyer, don’t I? Mr. Nathan convinced me. He’ll do the same for the jury. He’s extremely cunning, Alex.” Cunning?

  I asked Gary if Nathan was as smart as he was. Gary smiled and said, “Why do you always say I’m smart when I’m not? If I were so smart, would I be here?”

  He hadn’t strayed once from the Gary Murphy persona in weeks. He’d also declined to be hypnotized again.

  I watched Gary’s super-lawyer, Anthony Nathan, as he obnoxiously swaggered around the front of the courtroom. He was certainly manic, widely known for infuriating witnesses during cross-examination. Did Gary have the presence of mind to select Nathan? What had drawn the two of them together?

  In one way, though, it seemed a natural pairing—a borderline madman defending another madman. Anthony Nathan had already proclaimed: “This will be an absolute zoo. A zoo, or a Wild West frontier justice show! I promise you. They could sell tickets for a thousand dollars a seat.”

  My pulse was racing as the bailiff finally stood before the assemblage and called the room to order.

  I saw Jezzie across the room. She was dressed like the important person that she is in the Service. Pin-striped suit, heels, shiny black attaché case. She saw me, and rolled her eyes.

  On the right side of the courtroom, I saw Katherine Rose and Thomas Dunne. Their presence brought even more of an aura of unreality. I couldn’t help thinking of Charles and Anne Morrow Lindbergh and of the world-famous kidnapping trial that had taken place sixty years before.

  Judge Linda Kaplan was known as an eloquent and energetic woman who never let lawyers get the best of her. She had been on the bench for less than five years, but had already handled some of the biggest trials in Washington. Often, she stood during entire proceedings. She was known to rule her courtroom with complete authority.

  Gary Soneji/Murphy had been quietly, almost surreptitiously, escorted to his place. He was already seated, looking well behaved, as Gary Murphy always did.

  Several well-known journalists were present, at least a couple of them writing books about the kidnapping.

  The opposing lawyer teams looked supremely confident and well prepared on the first day, as though their cases were invincible.

  The trial began with a small flourish, opening-bell theatrics. At the front of the courtroom, Missy Murphy began to sob. “Gary didn’t hurt anybody,” she said in an audible voice. “Gary would never hurt another person.”

  Someone in the courtroom audience called out, “Oh, give us a break, lady!”

  Judge Kaplan smacked her gavel and commanded, “Silence in this courtroom! Silence! That will be enough of that.” Sure it will.

  We were off and running. Gary Soneji/Murphy’s Trial of the Century.

  CHAPTER 58

  EVERYTHING SEEMED to be in perpetual motion and chaos, but especially my relationship to the original investigation and the trial. After court that day, I did the one thing that made total sense to me: I played flag-football with the kids.

  Damon and Janelle were whirlwinds of activity, competing for my attention throughout the afternoon, smothering me with their need. They distracted me from unpleasant prospects that would stretch on for the next few weeks.

  After dinner that night, Nana and I stayed at the table over a second cup of chicory coffee. I wanted to hear her thoughts. I knew they were coming, anyway. All during the meal, her arms and hands had been twirling like Satchel Paige about to deliver a screwball.

  “Alex, I believe we need to talk,” she finally said. When Nana Mama has something to say, she gets quiet first. Then she talks a lot, sometimes for hours.

  The kids were busy watching Wheel of Fortune in the other room. The game-show cheers and chants made for good domestic background noise.

  “What shall we talk about?” I asked her. “Hey, did you hear that one in four kids in the U.S. now lives in poverty? We’re going to be the moral majority soon.”

  Nana was real composed and thoughtful about whatever was coming. She had been preparing this speech. I could tell that much. The pupils in her eyes had become brown pinpoints.

  “Alex,” she said now, “you know that I’m always on your side when something is important.”

  “Ever since I arrived in Washington with a duffel bag and, I think, seventy-five cents,” I said to her. I could still vividly remember being sent “up North” to live with my grandmother; the very day I’d arrived in Union Station on the train from Winston-Salem. My mother had just died of lung cancer; my father had died the year before. Nana bought me lunch at Morrison’s cafeteria. It was the first time I ever ate in a restaurant.

  Regina Hope took me in when I was nine. Nana Mama was called “The Queen of Hope,” back then. She was a schoolteacher here in Washington. She was already in her late forties, and my grandfather was dead. My three brothers came to the Washington area at the same time that I did. They stayed with one relative or another until they were around eighteen. I stayed with Nana the whole time.

  I was the lucky one. At times Nana Mama was a super queen bitch because she knew what was goo
d for me. She had seen my type before. She knew my father, for good and bad. She had loved my mother. Nana Mama was, and is, a talented psychologist. I named her Nana Mama when I was ten. By then, she was both my nana and my mama.

  Her arms were folded across her chest now. Iron will. “Alex, I believe I have some bad feelings about this relationship you’re involved in,” she said.

  “Can you tell me why?” I asked her.

  “Yes, I can. First, because Jezzie is a white woman, and I do not trust most white people. I would like to, but I can’t. Most of them have no respect for us. They lie to our faces. That’s their way, at least with people they don’t believe are their equals.”

  “You sound like a street revolutionary. Farrakhan or Sonny Carson,” I said to her. I started to clean the table, carting plates and silverware to stack in our old porcelain sink.

  “I’m not proud of these feelings I have, but I can’t help them, either.” Nana Mama’s eyes followed me.

  “Is that Jezzie’s crime, then? That she’s a white woman?”

  Nana fidgeted in her chair. She adjusted her eyeglasses, which were hung around her neck by twine. “Her crime is that she goes with you. She seems willing to let you throw away your police career, everything you do here in Southeast. All the good that’s been in your life. Damon and Jannie.”

  “Damon and Janelle don’t seem hurt or concerned,” I told Nana Mama. My voice was rising some. I stood there with a stack of dirty dishes in my arms.

  Nana’s palm slammed down on the wooden armrest of her chair. “Well dammit, that’s because you have blinders on, Alex. You are the sun and the sky for them. Damon is afraid you’ll just leave him.”

  “Those kids are upset only if you get them upset.” I said what I was feeling, what I believed to be the truth.

  Nana Mama sat all the way back in her chair. The tiniest sound escaped from her mouth. It was pure hurt.

  “That is so wrong for you to say. I protect those two children just like I protected you. I’ve spent my life caring for other people, looking out for others. I don’t hurt anyone, Alex.”

  “You just hurt me,” I said to her. “And you know you did. You know what those two kids mean to me.”

  There were tears in Nana’s eyes, but she held her ground. She kept her eyes locked tightly onto mine. Our love is a tough, uncompromising love. It’s always been that way.

  “I don’t want you to apologize to me later on, Alex. It doesn’t matter to me that you’ll feel guilty about what you just said to me. What matters is that you are guilty. You are giving up everything for a relationship that just can’t work.”

  Nana Mama left the kitchen table, and she went upstairs. End of conversation. Just like that. She’d made up her mind.

  Was I giving up everything to be with Jezzie? Was it a relationship that could never work? I had no way of knowing yet. I had to find that out for myself.

  CHAPTER 59

  A PARADE of medical experts now began to testify at the Soneji/Murphy trial. Assistant medical examiners took the stand, some of them strangely quirky and flamboyant for scientists. Experts came from Walter Reed, from Lorton Prison, from the army, from the FBI.

  Photos and four-by-six-foot schematic drawings were displayed and overexplained; crime-scene locations were visited and revisited on the eerie charts that dominated the trial’s first week.

  Eight different psychiatrists and psychologists were brought to the stand to build the case that Gary Soneji/Murphy was in control of his actions; that he was a deviate sociopath; that he was rational, cold-blooded, and very sane.

  He was described as a “criminal genius,” without any conscience or remorse; as a brilliant actor, “worthy of Hollywood,” which was how he’d manipulated and fooled so many people along the way.

  But Gary Soneji/Murphy had consciously and deliberately kidnapped two children; he had killed one or both of them; he had killed others—at least five, and possibly more. He was the human monster we all have nightmares about…. So said all the prosecution experts.

  The chief of psychiatry from Walter Reed was on the stand for most of one afternoon. She had interviewed Gary Murphy on a dozen occasions. After a long description of a disturbed childhood in Princeton, New Jersey, and teenage years marked by violent outbursts against both human beings and animals, Dr. Maria Ruocco was asked to give her psychiatric evaluation of Gary Murphy.

  “I see someone who is an extremely dangerous sociopath. I believe Gary Murphy is fully aware of all his actions. I absolutely do not believe he is a multiple personality.”

  So it was that Mary Warner artfully laid out her case every day. I admired her thoroughness, and her understanding of the psychiatric process. She was assembling a terribly complex jigsaw puzzle for the judge and jury. I’d met with her several times and she was good.

  When she was finished, the jurors would have an exquisitely detailed picture in their minds… of the mind of Gary Soneji/Murphy.

  Each day of the trial she would concentrate on one new puzzle piece. She would show them the piece. She would explain it thoroughly. She would then insert the piece into the puzzle.

  She showed the jury exactly how the new piece related to everything else that had gone before. Once or twice, spectators in the courtroom audience were moved to applaud the soft-spoken prosecutor and her impressive performance.

  She accomplished all of this while Anthony Nathan was objecting to virtually every point she attempted to make.

  Nathan’s defense was simple enough, and he never wavered from it: Gary Murphy was innocent because he had committed no crime.

  Gary Soneji had.

  Anthony Nathan paced the front of the courtroom with his usual swagger. He wore a fifteen-hundred-dollar tailored suit, but didn’t look at all comfortable in it. The suit was cut well, but Nathan’s posture was impossible—it was like trying to dress a jungle gym.

  “I am not a nice person.” Anthony Nathan stood before the jury of seven women and five men on the Monday of the second week. “At least not in the courtroom. People say that I have a perpetual sneer. That I’m a pompous man. That I’m an insufferable egomaniac. That I’m impossible to be around for more than sixty seconds. It’s all true,” Nathan said to his captive audience. “It’s all true.

  “And that’s what gets me into trouble sometimes. I do tell the truth. I’m obsessed, with telling the truth. I have no patience, none at all, with half-truths. And I have never taken a case where I cannot tell The Truth.

  “My defense of Gary Murphy is simple, perhaps the least complex and controversial I’ve ever delivered to any jury. It is about Truth. It is all black and white, ladies and gentlemen. Please, listen to me.

  “Ms. Warner and her team understand how strong the defense is, and that’s precisely why she has just laid before you more facts than the Warren Commission used to prove exactly the same thing—ABSOLUTELY NOTHING. If you could cross-examine Ms. Warner, and she would answer honestly, she would tell you that. Then we could all go home. Wouldn’t that be nice? Yes, that would be very nice.”

  There were snickers from around the courtroom. At the same time, some members of the jury were leaning in closer to listen and watch. Each time that Nathan passed by, he got a half step closer to them.

  “Someone, several someones, asked me why I took this case. I told them, as simply as I’ll tell you now, that the evidence makes this a certain winner for the defense. The Truth is overwhelming for the defense. I know you don’t believe that now. You will. You will.

  “Here’s a stunning statement of fact. Ms. Warner did not want to bring this trial to jury at this time. Her boss, the secretary of the treasury, forced this case to trial. He forced the trial to take place in record time. Never have the wheels of Justice moved so fast. Those same wheels never would have moved this fast for you or your family. That is the truth.

  “But in this particular instance, because of the suffering of Mr. Goldberg and his family, the wheels have moved very fast. And because of
Katherine Rose Dunne and her family, who are famous and rich and very powerful, and who also want their suffering to end. Who can blame them for that? I certainly don’t.

  “But NOT AT THE EXPENSE OF THE LIFE OF AN INNOCENT MAN! This man, Gary Murphy, does not deserve to suffer as they have suffered.”

  Nathan now walked over to where Gary sat. Blond, athletic-looking Gary Murphy, who looked like a grown-up Boy Scout. “This man is as good a man as you will find anywhere in this courtroom. I’ll prove it to you, too.

  “Gary Murphy is a good man. Remember that. There’s another fact for you.

  “It is one of two facts, just two, that I want you to remember. The other fact is that Gary Soneji is insane.

  “Now, I must tell you, I am a little insane, too. Just a little. You’ve seen that already. Ms. Warner has drawn your attention to it. Well, Gary Soneji IS A HUNDRED TIMES MORE INSANE THAN I AM. Gary Soneji is the most insane person I’ve ever met. And I’ve met Soneji. You will, too.

  “I promise you this. You will all meet Soneji, and once you have, you will not be able to convict Gary Murphy. You will end up liking Gary Murphy, and rooting for him in his personal battle with Soneji. Gary Murphy cannot be convicted of murders and a kidnapping… that were committed by Gary Soneji.…”

  Anthony Nathan now proceeded to call character witness after character witness. Surprisingly, they included staff members at Washington Day, as well as some students. They included neighbors of the Murphys from Delaware.

  Nathan was always gentle with the witnesses, always articulate. They seemed to like Nathan and to trust him.

  “Would you please state your name for everyone?”

  “Dr. Nancy Temkin.”

  “And your occupation, please.”

  “I teach art at Washington Day School.”

  “You knew Gary Soneji at the Day School?”

  “Yes I did.”

  “Was Mr. Soneji a good teacher during his time at Washington Day School? Did you ever observe anything that would make you think he wasn’t a good teacher?”

 
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