Along came a spider, p.22
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       Along Came a Spider, p.22

         Part #1 of Alex Cross series by James Patterson

  “No, I did not. He was a very good teacher.”

  “Why would you say that, Dr. Temkin?”

  “Because he had a passion both for his subject matter and for communicating it to the students. He was a favorite teacher at school. His nickname was ‘Chips,’ as in ‘Mr. Chips.’”

  “You’ve heard some medical experts say that he is insane, a severe split personality? How does that strike you?”

  “Frankly, it is the only way I can comprehend what happened.”

  “Dr. Temkin, I know this is a hard question under the circumstances, but was the defendant a friend of yours?”

  “Yes. He was a friend of mine.”

  “Is he still a friend of yours?”

  “I want to see Gary get the help he needs.”

  “And so do I,” said Nathan. “So do I.”

  Anthony Nathan fired his first real salvo late on Friday of the trial’s second week. It was as dramatic as it was unexpected. It started with a side-bench conference Nathan and Mary Warner had with Judge Kaplan.

  During the conference, Mary Warner raised her voice for one of the few times during the trial. “Your Honor, I object! I must object to this… stunt. This is a stunt!”

  The courtroom was already buzzing. The press, in front-row seats, was alert. Judge Kaplan had apparently ruled in favor of the defense.

  Mary Warner returned to her seat, but she had lost some of her composure. “Why weren’t we informed of this beforehand?” she called out. “Why wasn’t this revealed in pretrial?”

  Nathan held up his hands and actually quieted the room. He gave everyone the news. “I call Dr. Alex Cross as a defense witness. I am calling him as a hostile and uncooperative witness, but a witness for the defense nonetheless.”

  I was the “stunt.”




  “LET’S WATCH the movie again, Daddy,” Damon said to me. “I’m serious about this now.”

  “Shush up. We’re going to watch the news,” I told him. “Maybe you’ll learn something about life beyond Batman.”

  “The movie’s funny.” Damon tried to talk some sense into me.

  I let my son in on a little secret. “So is the news.”

  What I didn’t tell Damon was that I was unbelievably tense about testifying in court on Monday, testifying for the defense.

  On television that night, I had seen a news piece reporting that Thomas Dunne was expected to run for the Senate in California. Was Thomas Dunne trying to piece together his life again? Or could Thomas Dunne somehow be involved in the kidnapping himself? By now I was ruling nothing out. I’d become paranoid about too many things related to the kidnapping case. Was there more to the report from California than what it seemed? Twice, I had requested permission to go to California to investigate. Both times the request was denied. Jezzie was helping me out. She had a contact in California, but so far nothing had come of it.

  We watched the news from the living-room floor. Janelle and Damon were snuggled up beside me. Before the news, we had reviewed our tape of Kindergarten Cop for the tenth, or twelfth, or maybe it was the twentieth time.

  The kids thought I should be in the movie instead of Arnold Schwarzenegger. I thought Arnold was turning into a pretty good comic actor myself. Or maybe I just preferred Schwarzenegger to another turn with Benji or The Lady and the Tramp.

  Nana was out in the kitchen, playing pinochle with Aunt Tia. I could see the phone on the kitchen wall. The receiver was dangling off the hook to stop calls from coming in from reporters and other cranks du jour.

  The phone calls I had taken from the press that night all eventually got around to the same questions. Could I hypnotize Soneji/Murphy in a crowded courtroom? Would Soneji ever tell us what had happened to Maggie Rose Dunne? Did I think he was psychotic, or a sociopath? No I wouldn’t comment.

  Around one in the morning, the front doorbell sounded. Nana had gone upstairs long before that. I’d put Janelle and Damon to bed around nine, after we’d shared some more of David Macaulay’s magical book Black and White.

  I went into the darkened dining room and pulled back the chintz curtains. It was Jezzie. She was right on time.

  I went out to the porch and gave her a hug. “Let’s go, Alex,” she whispered. She had a plan. She said her plan was “no plan,” but that was seldom the case with Jezzie.

  Jezzie’s motorcycle truly ate up the road that night. We moved past other traffic as if it were standing still, frozen in time and space. We passed darkened houses, lawns, and everything else in the known world. In third gear. Cruising.

  I waited for her to slip it up into fourth, then fifth. The BMW roared steadily and smoothly beneath us, its single headlamp piercing the road with its beckoning light.

  Jezzie switched lanes easily and frequently as we hit fourth, then rose to the pure speed of fifth gear. We were doing a hundred and twenty miles an hour on the George Washington Parkway, then a hundred and thirty on 95. Jezzie had once told me that she’d never taken the bike out without getting it up to at least a hundred. I believed her.

  We didn’t stop hurtling through time and space until we came down, until we landed at a run-down Mobil gas station in Lumberton, North Carolina.

  It was almost six in the morning. We must have looked as crazed as the local gas jockey ever got to see. Black man; blond white woman. Big-assed motorcycle. Hot time in the old town tonight.

  The attendant at the station looked kind of out of sorts himself. He had skateboard pads over his farmer-gray blue jeans. He was in his early twenties, with one of those spiked or “skater” haircuts you’re more likely to see on the beaches of California than in this part of the country. How had the hairdo gotten to Lumberton, North Carolina, so quickly? Was it just more madness in the air? Free flow of ideas?

  “Morning, Rory.” Jezzie smiled at the boy.

  She peeked between two of the gas pumps and winked at me.

  “Rory’s the eleven-to-seven shift here. Only station open for fifty miles either way. Don’t tell anybody you’re not sure about.” She lowered her voice. “Rory sells ups and downs around these parts. Anything necessary to get you through the night. Bumblebees, black beauties, diazepam?”

  She had slipped into a slight drawl, which sounded pretty to the ear. Her blond hair was all blown out, which I liked, too. “Ecstasy, methamphetamine hydrochloride?” she went on with the menu.

  Rory shook his head at her, as if she were crazy. I could tell that he liked her. He brushed imaginary hair away from his eyes. “Man oh man,” he said. A very articulate young man.

  “Don’t worry about Alex.” She smiled again at the gas jockey. His spiked hair made him three inches taller. “He’s okay. He’s just another cop from Washington.”

  “Oh, man! Jezzie, goddamn you! Jee-zus! You and your cop friends.” Rory spun on his engineer’s boot heels as if he’d been burned by a torch. He’d seen plenty of crazy out here, working the emergency-room shift off the interstate. The two of us were crazy for sure. Tell me about it. What other cop friends?

  Less than fifteen minutes later, we were at Jezzie’s lake house. It was a small A-frame cottage sitting right on the water, surrounded by fir and birch trees. The weather was near perfect. Indian summer, later than it ever ought to come. Global warming marches on.

  “You didn’t tell me you were landed gentry,” I said as we sped down a picturesque winding road toward the cottage.

  “Hardly, Alex. My grandfather left this place to my mother. Grandpop was a local scoundrel and thief. He made a little money in his day. The only one in our family who ever did. Crime seems to pay.”

  “So they say.”

  I hopped off the bike, and immediately stretched out my back muscles, then my legs. We went inside the house. The door had been left unlocked, which stretched my imagination some.

  Jezzie checked out the fridge, which was generously stocked. She put on a Bruce Springsteen tape, then she w
andered outside.

  I followed her down toward the shimmering, blue-black water. A new dock had been built on the water. A narrow walkway went out to a broader dock set up with bolted-down chairs and a table. I could hear music from the Nebraska album playing.

  Jezzie pulled off her boots, then her striped-blue knee socks. She dipped one foot in the perfectly still water.

  Her long legs were wonderfully athletic. Her feet were long, too, nicely shaped, as beautiful as feet get. For the moment, she reminded me of ladies who went to the University of Florida, Miami, South Carolina, Vanderbilt. I hadn’t found a part of her that wasn’t special to look at.

  “Believe it or not, this water’s seventy-five degrees,” she said with a big slow-motion smile.

  “On the dot?” I asked.

  “I’d have to say so. On the button. Are you game, or are you lame?”

  “What will the neighbors say? I didn’t pack my bathing suit. Or anything else.”

  “That was the basic plan, no plan. Imagine. A whole Saturday with no plan. No trial. No press interviews. No missiles from the Dunnes. Like Thomas Dunne on Larry King this week. Complaining about the investigation leading up to the trial, peppering my name everywhere again. No earthshaking kidnapping case to weigh down on you. Just the two of us out here in the middle of nowhere.”

  “I like the sound of that,” I told Jezzie. “In the middle of nowhere.” I looked around, following the line where the fir trees met clear blue sky.

  “That’s our name for this place, then. In the Middle of Nowhere, North Carolina.”

  “Seriously, Jez. What about the neighbors? We’re in the Tarheel State, right? I don’t want any tar on my heels.”

  She smiled. “There’s nobody around for a couple of miles at least, Alex. No other houses, believe it or not. It’s too early for anybody but the bass fishermen.”

  “I don’t want to meet a couple of backwoods Tarheel bass fishermen, either.” I said. “In their eyes, I might be a black bass. I’ve read James Dickey’s Deliverance.”

  “Fishermen all go to the south end of the lake. Trust me, Alex. Let me undress you. Make you a little more comfortable.”

  “We’ll undress each other.” I surrendered and gave myself over to her, to the slow-down pace of the perfect morning.

  On the dock of the bay we undressed each other. The morning sun was toasty warm and I was aware of the lake breeze fanning our bare skin.

  I tested the water with my foot, my own well-turned ankle. Jezzie wasn’t exaggerating about the temperature.

  “I wouldn’t lie to you. I never have yet,” she said with another smile.

  She dived in perfectly, then, making almost no splash on the water surface.

  I followed in the light trail of her bubbles. As I penetrated the underwater, I was thinking: a black man and a beautiful white woman swimming together.

  In the middle South. In this Year of Our Lord, nineteen hundred and ninety-three.

  We were being reckless, and maybe just a little crazy.

  Were we wrong? Some people would say so, or at least think it. But why was that? Were we hurting anyone by being together?

  The water was warm on top. But it was much colder five or six feet down. It looked blue-green. It was probably spring-fed. Near the bottom, I could feel strong undercurrents striking my chest and genitals.

  A thought struck me hard: Could we be falling deeply in love? Was that what I was feeling now? I came up for air.

  “Did you touch bottom? You have to touch bottom on the day’s first dive.”

  “Or what?” I asked Jezzie.

  “Or you’re a lily-livered chicken, and you’ll drown or be lost forever in the deep woods before day’s end. That’s a true tale. I’ve seen it happen many, many times here in the Middle of Nowhere.”

  We played like children in the lake. We’d both been working hard. Too hard—for almost a year of our lives.

  There was a cedar ladder, the easy way back up onto the dock. The ladder was newly built. I could smell the freshness of the wood. There weren’t any splinters yet. I wondered if Jezzie had built it herself—on her vacation—just before the kidnapping.

  We held on to the ladder, and on to each other. Somewhere distant on the lake, ducks honked. It was a funny sound. There was little more than a ripple on the water table that stretched out before us. Tiny waves tickled under Jezzie’s chin.

  “I love you when you’re like this. You get so vulnerable,” she said. “The real you starts to show up.”

  “I feel like everything’s been unreal for such a long time,” I said to Jezzie. “The kidnapping. The search for Soneji. The trial in Washington.”

  “This is the only thing that’s real for the moment. Okay? I like being with you so.” Jezzie put her head on my chest.

  “You like it so?”

  “Yes. I like it so. See how uncomplicated it can be?” She gestured around at the picturesque lake, the deep ring of fir trees. “Don’t you see? It’s all so natural. It will be fine. I promise. No bass fishermen will ever come between us.”

  Jezzie was right. For the first time in a very long time, I felt as if everything could work out—everything that might happen from now on. Things were as slow and uncomplicated and good as could be. Neither of us wanted the weekend to end.


  “I’M A HOMICIDE DETECTIVE with the Washington Police Department. My official rank is divisional chief. Sometimes, I get assigned to violent crimes where there are psychological considerations that might mean something to the case.”

  I stated this under oath inside a crowded, hushed, very electric Washington courtroom. It was Monday morning. The weekend seemed a million miles away. Beads of perspiration started to roll across my scalp.

  “Can you tell us why you are assigned cases with psychological implications?” Anthony Nathan asked me.

  “I’m a psychologist as well as a detective. I had a private practice before I joined the D.C. police force,” I said. “Prior to that, I worked in agriculture. I was a migrant farmworker for a year.”

  “Your degree is from?” Nathan refused to be distracted from establishing me as an impressive-as-hell person.

  “As you already know, Mr. Nathan, my doctorate is from Johns Hopkins.”

  “One of the finest schools in the country, certainly this part of the country,” he said.

  “Objection. That’s Mr. Nathan’s opinion.” Mary Warner made a fair legal point.

  Judge Kaplan upheld the objection.

  “You’ve also published articles in Psychiatric Archives, in the American Journal of Psychiatry.” Nathan continued as if Ms. Warner and Judge Kaplan were inconsequential.

  “I’ve written a few papers. It’s really not such a big deal, Mr. Nathan. A lot of psychologists publish.”

  “But not in the Journal and Archives, Dr. Cross. What was the subject of these learned articles?”

  “I write about the criminal mind. I know enough three- and four-syllable words to qualify for the so-called learned journals.”

  “I admire your modesty, I honestly do. Tell me something, Dr. Cross. You’ve observed me these past few weeks. How would you describe my personality?”

  “I’d need some private sessions for that, Mr. Nathan. I’m not sure if you could pay me enough for the therapy.”

  There was laughter throughout the courtroom. Even Judge Kaplan enjoyed a rare moment of mirth.

  “Hazard a guess,” Nathan continued. “I can take it.”

  He had a quick and very inventive mind. Anthony Nathan was highly creative. He had first established that I was my own witness, not an “expert” in his pocket.

  “You’re neurotic.” I smiled. “And probably devious.”

  Nathan faced the jury and turned his palms up. “At least he’s honest. And if nothing else, I get a free shrink session this morning.”

  More laughter came from the jury box. This time, I got the feeling that some of the jurors were beginning to change th
eir minds about Anthony Nathan, and maybe about his client as well.

  They had intensely disliked him at first. Now they saw that he was engaging, and very, very bright. He was doing a professional, maybe even a brilliant, job for his client.

  “How many sessions have you had with Gary Murphy?” he asked me now. Gary Murphy, not Soneji.

  “We had fifteen sessions over a period of three and a half months.”

  “Enough to form some opinions, I trust?”

  “Psychiatry isn’t that exact a science. I would like to have had more sessions. I do have some preliminary opinions.”

  “Which are?” Nathan asked me.

  “Objection!” Mary Warner rose once again. She was a busy lady. “Detective Cross has just said he would need more sessions to form a final medical opinion.”

  “Overruled,” Judge Kaplan said. “Detective Cross has also stated he has some preliminary opinions. I’d like to hear what those are.”

  “Dr. Cross,” Nathan continued as if none of the interruptions had occurred, “unlike the other psychiatrists and psychologists who have seen Gary Murphy, you’ve been intimately involved in this case right from the start—both as a police officer and as a psychologist.”

  The prosecutor interrupted Nathan again. She was losing her patience. “Your Honor, does Mr. Nathan have a question to ask?”

  “Do you, Mr. Nathan?”

  Anthony Nathan turned to Mary Warner and snapped his fingers at her. “A question?—no sweat.” He turned back to me.

  “As a police officer involved from the very beginning of this case, and as a trained psychologist, can you give us your professional opinion of Gary Murphy?”

  I looked at Murphy/Soneji. He appeared to be Gary Murphy. At this moment, he looked like a sympathetic and decent man who was trapped in the worst possible nightmare that anyone could possibly imagine.

  “My first feelings and honest impressions were very basic and human. The kidnapping by a teacher shocked and disturbed me,” I began my answer. “It was a profound breach of trust. It got much worse than that. I personally saw the tortured body of Michael Goldberg. It’s something I will never forget. I have talked with Mr. and Mrs. Dunne about their little girl. I feel as if I know Maggie Rose Dunne. I also saw the murder victims at the Turner and Sanders houses.”

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