Along came a spider, p.23
Along Came a Spider,
Part #1 of Alex Cross series by James Patterson
“Objection!” Mary Warner was on her feet again. “Objection!”
“You know better than that.” Judge Kaplan froze me with a very cold look. “Strike it from the record. The jury is instructed to disregard. There is no proof that the defendant is involved in any way with the events just mentioned.”
“You asked for an honest answer,” I said to Nathan. “You wanted to hear what I believe. That’s what you’re getting.”
Nathan was nodding his head as he walked to the jury box. He turned back toward me.
“Fair enough, fair enough. I am sure we’ll get absolute honesty from you, Dr. Cross. Whether I like that honesty or not. Whether or not Gary Murphy likes it. You are an extremely honest man. I won’t interrupt your honest opinion, so long as the prosecution doesn’t. Please go on.”
“I wanted to catch the kidnapper so badly that it hurt. All of us on the Hostage Rescue Team did. It got very personal with most of us.”
“You actually hated the kidnapper. You wanted to see whoever it was punished to the maximum allowable by law?”
“I did. I still do,” I answered Nathan.
“When Gary Murphy was apprehended, you were there. He was charged with the crime. You then had several sessions with him. What do you believe right now about Gary Murphy?”
“I honestly don’t know what to believe right now.”
Anthony Nathan didn’t miss a beat. “Then there is reasonable doubt in your mind?”
Mary Warner was wearing a spot into the ancient floorboards of the courtroom. “Suggestive. Leading the witness.”
“The jury will disregard,” said Judge Kaplan.
“Tell us what your feelings are at this moment about Gary Murphy. Give us a professional opinion, Dr. Cross,” said Nathan.
“There’s no way yet for me to know if he is Gary Murphy—or Gary Soneji. I’m not sure if two personalities do exist in this man. I believe there is a chance he could be a split personality.”
“And if he were a split personality?”
“If that were true, Gary Murphy could have little or no conscious idea about the actions of Gary Soneji. He could also be a brilliant sociopath who’s manipulating every one of us. You, too.”
“Okay. I can accept those parameters. So far, so good,” Nathan said. He had his hands in front of his chest as if he were holding a small ball. He was obviously working to get a tighter definition out of me.
“This concept of doubt seems pivotal, doesn’t it?” he continued. “This is the whole ball game. I would therefore like you to help the jury make their important decision. Dr. Cross, I want you to hypnotize Gary Murphy!” he announced.
“Here, in this courtroom. Let the jurors decide for themselves. And I have the fullest confidence in this jury and their decision. I have all the confidence in the world that when these people see all the evidence, they’ll arrive at the right decision. Don’t you, Dr. Cross?”
THE FOLLOWING MORNING two simple red-leather armchairs were brought in for the session between Gary and me. To help him get relaxed, more oblivious to his surroundings, the room’s overhead lighting was dimmed. Both of us were miked. Those were the only extra touches allowed by Judge Kaplan.
An alternative to this would have been a videotape of our session, but Gary said he believed he could be hypnotized inside the courtroom. He wanted to try. His lawyer wanted him to try.
I had decided to conduct the hypnosis as if Soneji/Murphy were in his cell. It was important to block out some of the obvious distractions inside the courtroom. I had no idea if this would work, or what the outcome might be. My stomach was in knots as I sat in one of the armchairs. I tried not to look out into the courtroom audience. I didn’t appreciate being on stage, but especially now.
In the past, I’d used a simple verbally suggestive technique with Gary. We began the courtroom hypnosis in that same way. Hypnosis isn’t nearly as complex as most people think.
“Gary,” I said, “I want you to sit back and try and relax and we’ll see what happens.”
“I’ll do the best I can,” he said, sounding as sincere as he looked. He was wearing a navy blue suit, crisp white shirt, striped rep tie. He looked more like a lawyer than his own lawyer.
“I’m going to hypnotize you again because your lawyer feels it may help your case. You’ve told me that you want that help. Is that correct?”
“Yes, it is,” Gary said. “I want to tell the truth… I want to know the truth myself.”
“All right, then, I’d like you to count backwards from one hundred. We’ve done this before. Feel yourself relaxing with each number. You can begin to count.”
Gary Murphy began to count backwards.
“Your eyes are starting to close. You feel much more relaxed now… in a sleeping state… breathing deeply,” I said in a voice that got quieter and quieter, almost a monotone.
The courtroom was very nearly silent. The only sound was a thick, vibrating hum from the room’s air conditioner.
Gary finally stopped counting.
“Are you comfortable? Is everything okay?” I asked him.
His brown eyes were glassy and moist. He appeared to have slipped fairly easily into the trance. There was no way to be certain.
“Yes. I’m fine. I feel good.”
“If you want to stop the session, for any reason, you know the way back out of this.”
He nodded softly as he spoke. “I do. I’m okay, though.” He seemed to be only half listening.
Under all the pressure and the circumstances of the trial, it didn’t seem likely that he could be faking this.
I said, “At another time, in a past session, we talked about your waking up at the McDonald’s. You told me that you ‘woke as if you’d been dreaming.’ Do you remember that?”
“That’s right. Sure I remember,” he said. “I woke up in a police car outside McDonald’s. I came to, and the police were there. They were arresting me.”
“How did you feel when the police arrested you?”
“I felt like it couldn’t be happening. No way. It had to be a bad dream. I told them I was a salesman, told them where I lived in Delaware. Anything I could think of to show they had the wrong person. Not a criminal. I don’t have any record with the police.”
I said, “We talked about the time just before you were arrested. That day. When you went into the fast-food restaurant.”
“I don’t… I’m not sure if I can remember. Let me try and think about it….” Gary appeared to be struggling a little. Was it an act? Was he uncomfortable with the truth as he remembered it now?
Originally, I’d been surprised that he had revealed the Soneji persona in our prison session. I wondered if he would do it again. Especially under these difficult circumstances.
“You stopped to go to the bathroom inside the McDonald’s restaurant. You also wanted some coffee, to keep you alert on your drive.”
“I remember… I remember a little of that. I can see myself at the McDonald’s for sure. I remember being there….”
“Take your time. We have plenty of time, Gary.”
“Very crowded with people. The restaurant area was crowded, I mean. I went up to the bathroom door. Then I didn’t go inside for some reason. I don’t know why not. That’s funny, but I don’t remember.”
“What were you feeling then? When you remained outside the restroom. Do you remember how you felt?”
“Agitated. Getting worse. I could feel the blood pumping inside my head. I didn’t understand why. I was upset, and I didn’t know why.”
Soneji/Murphy was staring straight ahead. He was looking to the left of where I sat. I was a little surprised at how easy it was for me to forget the courtroom audience that was watching both of us.
“Was Soneji there in the restaurant?” I asked him.
He tilted his head slightly. The gesture was oddly touching.
“Soneji’s in there. Yes, he’s in the McDonald’s.” He became excited. “Pre
“Why is he mad? Do you know? What is it that gets Soneji angry?”
“I think it’s because… things got ruined on him. The police were unbelievably lucky. His plan to be famous got screwed up. Totally messed up. Now he feels like Bruno Richard Hauptmann. Just another loser.”
This was news. He hadn’t talked about the actual kidnapping before. I was oblivious to everything in the courtroom. My eyes stayed on Gary Soneji/Murphy.
I tried to sound as casual and nonthreatening as I could. Easy does it. Nice and slow. This was like walking on the edge of a chasm. I could help him, or we could both fall in. “What went wrong with Soneji’s plan?”
“Everything that could go wrong,” he said. He was still Gary Murphy. I could see that. He had not transferred into the Soneji personality. But Gary Murphy knew about Gary Soneji’s activities; under hypnosis, Gary Murphy knew Soneji’s thoughts.
The courtroom remained silent and very still. There wasn’t a flicker of motion anywhere in my peripheral vision.
More details about the kidnapping came from Gary. “He checked on the Goldberg boy, and the boy was dead. His face was all blue. Must have been too much of the barbiturate…. Soneji couldn’t believe that he’d made a mistake. He’d been so thorough and careful. He’d talked to anesthesiologists beforehand.”
I asked a key question: “How did the boy’s body get so bruised and beaten? What exactly happened to the Goldberg boy?”
“Soneji went a little crazy. He couldn’t believe his bad luck. He hit the Goldberg boy’s body over and over with a heavy shovel.”
The way he was talking about Soneji was extremely credible so far. It was possible that he was a multiple-personality victim after all. That would change everything about the trial, and possibly the verdict.
“What shovel was that?” I asked.
He was talking faster and faster now. “The shovel he used to dig them up. They were buried in the barn. They had an air supply for a couple of days. It was like a fallout shelter, you see. The air system worked beautifully; everything did. Soneji invented it himself. He built it himself.”
My pulse was hammering. My throat was very, very dry. “What about the little girl? What about Maggie Rose?” I asked him.
“She was fine. Soneji gave her Valium the second time. To put her back to sleep. She was terrified, screaming—because it was so dark under the ground. Pitch-black. But it wasn’t that bad. Soneji had seen worse himself. The basement.”
I proceeded very cautiously at this point. I didn’t want to lose him here. What about the basement? I’d try to get back to the basement later.
“Where is Maggie Rose now?” I asked Gary Murphy.
“Don’t know,” he said without hesitation.
Not, she’s dead. Not, she’s alive…. Don’t know. Why would he block that information? Because he knew I wanted it? Because everyone in that courtroom wanted to know the fate of Maggie Rose Dunne?
“Soneji went back to get her,” he said next. “The FBI had agreed to the ten-million ransom. Everything was all set. But she was gone! Maggie Rose wasn’t there when Soneji came back again. She was gone! Somebody else had taken the girl out of there!”
The spectators in the courtroom were no longer quiet. But I still kept my concentration on Gary.
Judge Kaplan was reluctant to bang her gavel and ask for order. She did stand up. She motioned for quiet, but it was a useless gesture. Somebody else had taken the girl out of there. Somebody else had the girl now.
I rushed in a few more questions before the room went completely out of control, and maybe Soneji/Murphy with it. My voice remained soft, surprisingly calm under the circumstances.
“Did you dig her up, Gary? Did you rescue the little girl from Soneji? Do you know where Maggie Rose is now?” I asked him.
He didn’t like that line of questioning. He was perspiring heavily. His eyelids flickered. “Of course not. No, I had nothing to do with any of it. It was Soneji all the way. I can’t control him. Nobody can. Don’t you understand that?”
I leaned way forward in my chair. “Is Soneji here right now? Is he here with us this morning?”
Under any other circumstances, I wouldn’t have tried to push him this far. “Can I ask Soneji what happened to Maggie Rose?”
Gary Murphy shook his head repeatedly from side to side. He knew something else was happening to him now.
“It’s too scary now,” he said. His face was dripping with perspiration and his hair was wet. “It’s scary. Soneji’s real bad news! I can’t talk about him anymore. I won’t. Please, help me, Dr. Cross! Please, help me.”
“All right, Gary, that’s enough.” I brought Gary out of hypnosis immediately. It was the only humane thing to do under the circumstances. I had no choice.
Suddenly, Gary Murphy was back in the courtroom with me. His eyes focused on mine. I saw nothing but fear in them.
The courtroom crowd was out of control. TV and print reporters rushed to make calls to their newsrooms. Judge Kaplan slammed her gavel over and over again.
Somebody else had Maggie Rose Dunne…. Was that possible?
“It’s all right, Gary,” I said. “I understand why you were afraid.”
He stared at me, then his eyes very slowly trailed around the loudly buzzing courtroom. “What happened?” he asked. “What just happened in here?”
I STILL REMEMBERED some Kafka. In particular, the chilling opening of Kafka’s The Trial: “Someone must have been telling lies about Joseph K., for without having done anything wrong he was arrested one fine morning.” That was what Gary Murphy wanted us to believe: that he was trapped in a nightmare. That he was as innocent as Joseph K.
I had my picture taken a couple of dozen times as I left the courthouse. Everybody had a question to ask. I had no comments to make. I never miss a good chance to shut up.
Was Maggie Rose still alive? the press wanted to know. I wouldn’t say what I thought, which was that she probably wasn’t.
As I was leaving the courthouse, I saw Katherine and Thomas Dunne walking toward me. They were flanked by TV and print newspeople. I wanted to talk to Katherine, but not to Thomas.
“Why are you helping him?” Thomas Dunne raised his voice. “Don’t you know he’s lying? What’s wrong with you, Cross?”
Thomas Dunne was extremely tense and red-faced. Out of control. The veins in his forehead couldn’t have been more prominent. Katherine Rose looked miserable, completely desolate.
“I’ve been called as a hostile witness,” I said to the Dunnes. “I’m doing my job, that’s all.”
“Well, you’re doing your job badly.” Thomas Dunne continued to attack me. “You lost our daughter in Florida. Now you’re trying to free her kidnapper.”
I’d had enough from Thomas Dunne finally. He’d made personal attacks on me in the press and on TV. As much as I wanted to get his daughter back, I wasn’t about to take any more abuse from him.
“The hell I am!” I shouted back as cameras shushed and whirred around us. “I’ve had my hands tied. I’ve been taken off the case, on a whim, then put back on. And I’m the only one who’s gotten any results.”
I whirled away from both of the Dunnes and headed down a steep flight of stairs. I understood their anguish, but Thomas Dunne had been badgering me for months. He’d gotten personal, and he was wrong. Nobody seemed to get one simple fact: I was the one still trying to get at the truth about Maggie Rose. I was the only one.
As I reached the bottom of the stairs, Katherine Rose came up from behind. She had run after me. Photographers had followed her. They were everywhere, their automatic film-wasters clicking like crazy. The press was elbowing in.
“I’m sorry about all that,” she said before I could manage a word. “Losing Maggie is destroying Tom, destroying our marriage. I know you’ve done your best. I know what you’ve gone throu
It was a strange, strange moment. I finally reached out and took Katherine Rose Dunne’s hand. I thanked her, and promised her I wouldn’t stop trying. The photographers continued to snap pictures. Then I quickly left the scene, refusing to answer another question, absolutely refusing to tell them what had just passed between Katherine Rose and myself. Silence is the best revenge with the press jackals.
I headed home. I was still searching for Maggie Rose Dunne—but inside Soneji/Murphy’s mind now. Could she have been taken from the kidnapping site by somebody else? Why would Gary Murphy tell us that she had? As I drove into Southeast, I wondered about what Gary Murphy had said under hypnosis. Was Gary Soneji setting us all up beautifully in the courtroom? That was a scary possibility, and a very real one. Was all this part of one of his terrifying plans?
The next morning, I tried to put Soneji/Murphy under hypnosis a second time. The Amazing Detective/Doctor Cross was back on center stage! That’s how it sounded in the morning news, anyway.
The hypnosis didn’t work this time. Gary Murphy was too frightened, or so his lawyer claimed. There was too much hubbub in the crowded courtroom. The room was cleared once by Judge Kaplan, but that didn’t help, either.
I was cross-examined by the prosecution that day, but Mary Warner was more interested in getting me off the stand than in questioning my credentials. My part in the trial was over. Which was just fine by me.
Neither Sampson nor I came to court for the rest of that week, a time of more expert testimony. We went back on the street. We had new cases. We also tried to rework a couple of troubling angles concerning the actual day of the kidnapping. We reanalyzed everything, spending hours in a conference room filled with files. If Maggie Rose had been taken from the site in Maryland, she could still be alive. There was still a slim chance.
Sampson and I returned to Washington Day School one more time to interview some of the school’s teachers. To put it mildly, most of them weren’t overjoyed to see us again. We were still testing the “accomplice” theory. It was definitely a possibility that Gary Soneji had been working with someone from the start. Could it be Simon Conklin, his friend from around Princeton? If not Conklin, then who? No one at the school had seen anyone to support the notion of an “accomplice” for Gary Soneji.
Along Came a Spider by James Patterson / Mystery & Detective / Thrillers & Crime / History & Fiction have rating 4 out of 5 / Based on32 votes