Along came a spider, p.26
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       Along Came a Spider, p.26
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         Part #1 of Alex Cross series by James Patterson

  “Detective Cross, it’s late, you know. Can’t we be allowed to move on with our lives?” she asked as she finally swung open the door. “It’s hard for us to forget the Sanderses. We don’t need you to remind us over and over.”

  “I know you don’t,” I agreed with the tall, late fortyish woman eyeballing me. Almond-shaped eyes. Pretty eyes on a not-very-pretty face. “These are murder cases, though, Mrs. Cerisier, terrible murders.”

  “The killer has been caught,” she said to me. “Do you know that, Detective Cross? Have you heard? Do you read newspapers?”

  I felt like crap being out there again. I believe she suspected I was crazy. She was a smart lady.

  “Oh, Jesus Christ.” I shook my head and laughed out loud. “You know, you’re absolutely right. I’m just fucked up. I’m sorry, I really am.”

  That caught her off guard, and Glory Cerisier smiled back at me. It was a kindly, crooked-toothed grin that you see sometimes in the projects.

  “Invite this poor nigger in for some coffee,” I said. “I’m crazy, but at least I know it. Open the door for me.”

  “All right, all right. Why don’t you come in then, Detective. We can talk one more time. That’s it, though.”

  “That’s it,” I agreed with her. I had broken through by simply telling her the truth about myself.

  We drank bad instant coffee in her tiny kitchen. Actually, she loved to talk. Glory Cerisier asked me all sorts of questions about the trial.

  She wanted to know what it was like being on TV. Like many people, she was curious about the actress Katherine Rose. Glory Cerisier even had her own private theory about the kidnapping.

  “That man didn’t do it. That Gary Soneji, or Murphy, or whoever he is. Somebody set him up, you see,” she said and laughed. I suppose she thought it funny that she was sharing her crazy ideas with a crazy D.C. policeman.

  “Humor me one last time,” I said, finally getting around to what I really wanted to talk to her about. “Run me through what Nina said she saw that night. Tell me what Nina told you. As close as you remember it.”

  “Why you doin’ this to yourself?” Glory wanted to know from me first. “Why you here, ten o’clock at night?”

  “I don’t know why, Glory.” I shrugged and sipped the truly bad-tasting coffee. “Maybe it’s because I need to know why I was chosen down in Miami. I don’t know for sure, but here I am.”

  “It’s made you crazy, hasn’t it? The kidnapping of those children.”

  “Yes. It’s made me crazy. Tell me again what Nina saw. Tell me about the man in the car with Gary Soneji.”

  “Nina, ever since she been little, she love the window seat on our stairway,” Glory began the story again. “That’s Nina’s window on the world, always has been. She curl up there and read a book or just pet one of her cats. Sometimes, she just stare out at nothing. She was at the window seat when she saw that white man, Gary Soneji. We get few white men in the neighborhood. Black, some Hispanic, sometimes. So he caught her eye. The more she watched, the stranger it seemed to her. Like she told you. He was watching the Sanderses’ house. Like he was spying on the house or something. And the other man, the one in the car, he was watching him watch the house.”

  Bingo. My tired, overloaded mind somehow managed to catch the key phrase in what she’d just said.

  Glory Cerisier was all set to go on, but I stopped her. “You just said the man in the car was watching Gary Soneji. You said he was watching him.”

  “I did say that, didn’t I? I forgot all about it. Nina been saying the men was together. Like a salesman team or something. You know, the way they come stake out a street, sometimes. But way back, she told me the man in the car was watching the other one. I believe that what she said. I’m almost sure. Let me get Nina. I’m not so sure anymore.”

  Soon, the three of us were sitting together and talking. Mrs. Cerisier helped me with Nina, and Nina finally cooperated. Yes, she was sure the man in the car had been watching Gary Soneji. The man wasn’t there with Soneji. Nina Cerisier definitely remembered the man in the car watching the other man.

  She didn’t know whether it had been a white or a black man watching. She hadn’t mentioned it before because it didn’t seem important, and the police would have asked even more questions. Like most kids in Southeast, Nina hated the police and was afraid of them.

  The man in the car had been watching Gary Soneji.

  Maybe there hadn’t been an “accomplice” after all, but someone watching Gary Soneji/Murphy as he staked out potential murder victims? Who could it have been?

  CHAPTER 71

  I WAS ALLOWED to visit Soneji/Murphy, but only in connection with the Sanders and Turner murder investigations. I could see him about crimes that would probably never go to trial, but not about one that could possibly remain unsolved. So goes the tale of the red tape.

  I had a friend out at Fallston, where Gary was imprisoned. I’d known Wallace Hart, the chief of pyschiatry at Fallston, since I’d joined the D.C. police force. Wallace was waiting for me in the lobby of the ancient facility.

  “I like this kind of personal attention,” I said as I shook his hand. “First time I’ve ever got any, of course.”

  “You’re a celebrity now, Alex. I saw you on the tube.”

  Wallace is a small scholarly looking black man who wears round bottle glasses and baggy blue business suits. He reminds people of George Washington Carver, maybe crossed with Woody Allen. He looks as if he were black and Jewish.

  “What do you think about Gary so far?” I asked Wallace as we took a prison elevator up to the maximum-security floor. “Model prisoner?”

  “I’ve always had a soft spot for psychopaths, Alex. They keep shit interesting. Imagine life without the real bad guys. Very boring.”

  “You’re not buying the possibility of multiple personalities, I take it?”

  “I think it’s a possibility, but very slim. Either way, the bad boy in him is really bad. I’m surprised he got his ass in a sling, though. I’m surprised he got caught.”

  I said, “Want to hear one off-the-wall theory? Gary Murphy caught Soneji. Gary Murphy couldn’t handle Soneji, so he turned him in.”

  Wallace grinned at me. He had a big toothy smile for such a little face. “Alex, I do like your crazy mind. But do you really buy that? One side turning in the other?”

  “Nope. I just wanted to see if you would. I’m beginning to think he’s a psycho all the way. I just need to know how far all the way is. I observed a definite paranoid personality disorder when I was seeing him.”

  “I agree with that. He’s mistrustful, demanding, arrogant, driven. Like I say, I love the guy.”

  I was a little shocked when I finally saw Gary this time. His eyes appeared to be sunken into his skull. The orbs were red-rimmed, as if he were suffering from conjunctivitis. The skin was pulled tight all around his face. He’d lost a lot of weight, maybe thirty pounds, and he’d been fit and trim to begin with.

  “So I’m a little depressed. Hello, Doctor.” He looked up from his cot and spoke to me. He was Gary Murphy again. At least he seemed to be.

  “Hello, Gary,” I said. “I couldn’t stay away.”

  “Long time no visits. You must want something. Let me guess—you’re doing a book about me. You want to be the next Anne Rule?”

  I shook my head. “I wanted to come and see you long before this. I had to get a court order first. I’m here to talk about the Sanders and Turner murders, actually.”

  “Really?” He seemed resigned and his affect was indifferent and passive. I didn’t like the way he looked. It struck me that his personality could be on the verge of complete disintegration.

  “I’m only allowed to talk to you about the Sanders and Turner murders, in fact. That’s my purview. But we could talk about Vivian Kim, if you like.”

  “Then we don’t have a lot to talk about. I don’t know anything about those killings. I haven’t even read the newspapers. I swear on my daughter’
s life I haven’t. Maybe our friend Soneji knows. Not me, Alex.” He seemed real comfortable calling me Alex by now. Nice to know you can make friends, anywhere.

  “Your lawyer must have explained the murder cases to you. There could be another trial this year.”

  “I won’t see any more lawyers. It’s got nothing to do with me. Besides, those cases won’t get to trial. Too expensive.”

  “Gary.” I talked to him as if he were a patient of mine. “I’d like to put you under hypnosis again. Will you sign the papers if I can get all the bullshit arranged? It’s important for me to talk to Soneji. Let me try to talk to him.”

  Gary Murphy smiled and he shook his head. Finally he nodded. “Actually, I’d like to talk with him myself,” he said. “If I could, I’d kill him. I would kill Soneji. Like I’m supposed to have killed all those other people.”

  That evening I went to see former Secret Service Agent Mike Devine. Devine was one of the two agents who had been assigned to Secretary Goldberg and his family. I wanted to ask him about the “accomplice” theory.

  Mike Devine had taken voluntary retirement about a month after the kidnapping. Because he was still in his mid-forties, I assumed he’d been pushed out of his job. We talked for a couple of hours out on his stone terrace overlooking the Potomac.

  It was a tasteful, well-appointed apartment for a now-single man. Devine was tan and looked rested. He was one of the better advertisements I’d seen for getting out of police work while you can.

  He reminded me a little of Travis McGee in the John MacDonald novels. He was well built, with lots of character in his face. He’d do well in early-retirement-land, I thought: movie-hero good looks, lots of curly brown hair, an easy smile, stories galore.

  “My partner and I were pushed out, you know,” Devine confessed over a couple of Corona beers. “One fuck-up that happened to turn into World War Three, and we were both history at the Service. We didn’t get a lot of support from our boss, either.”

  “It was a public case. I guess there had to be heroes and villains.” I could be as philosophical as the next guy over a cold beer.

  “Maybe it’s all for the best,” Mike Devine mused. “You ever think about starting over, doing something else while you still have the energy? Before the Alzheimer’s sets in?”

  “I’ve thought about private practice,” I said to Devine. “I’m a psychologist. I still do some pro bono work in the projects.”

  “But you love The Job too much to leave it?” Mike Devine grinned and squinted into late afternoon sunlight coming off the water. Gray seabirds with white chests flew right by the terrace. Nice. Everything about the layout was nice.

  “Listen, Mike, I wanted to go over, once more, those last couple of days before the kidnapping,” I said to him.

  “You are goddamn hooked, Alex. I’ve been over every square inch of that territory myself. Believe me, there’s nothing there. It’s fallow ground. Nothing grows. I’ve tried and tried, and finally I gave up the ghost.”

  “I believe you. But I’m still curious about a late-model sedan that might have been seen out in Potomac. Possibly a Dodge,” I said. It was the car that Nina Cerisier remembered parked on Langley Terrace. “You ever notice a blue or black sedan parked on Sorrell Avenue? Or anywhere around the Day School?”

  “Like I said, I’ve been over and over all of our daily logs. There wasn’t any mystery car. You can look at the logs yourself.”

  “I have,” I told him and laughed at the seeming hopelessness of my case.

  Mike Devine and I talked for a while more. He couldn’t come up with anything new. In the end, I listened to him praise the beach life, bonefishing on the Keys, “hitting the little white ball.” His new life was just starting. He’d gotten over the Dunne-Goldberg kidnapping a lot better than I had.

  Something still bothered me, though. The whole “accomplice” thing. Or “the watcher” thing. More than that, I had a gut feeling about Devine and his partner. A bad feeling. Something told me they knew more than they were willing to tell anybody.

  While I was still as hot as a ten-dollar pistol, I decided to contact Devine’s ex-partner, Charles Chakely, later that same night. After his dismissal, Chakely and his family had settled in Tempe, Arizona.

  It was midnight my time, ten o’clock in Tempe. Not too late, I figured. “Charles Chakely? This is Detective Alex Cross calling from Washington,” I said when he got on the phone.

  There was a pause, an uncomfortable silence, before he answered. Then Chakely got hostile—real strange, it seemed to me. His reaction only served to fuel my instincts about him and his partner.

  “What the hell do you want?” he bristled. “Why are you calling me here? I’m retired from the Service now. I’m trying to put what happened behind me. Leave me the hell alone. Stay away from me and my family.”

  “Listen, I’m sorry to bother you—” I started to apologize.

  He cut me off. “Then don’t. That’s an easy fix, Cross. Butt out of my life.”

  I could just about picture Charles Chakely as I spoke to him. I remembered him from the days right after the kidnapping. He was only fifty-one, but he looked over sixty. Beer belly. Most of his hair gone. Sad, kind of withdrawn eyes. Chakely was physical evidence of the harm The Job could do to you, if you let it.

  “Unfortunately, I’m still assigned to a couple of murders,” I said to him, hoping he’d understand. “They involved Gary Soneji/Murphy, too. He came back to kill one of the teachers at the school. Vivian Kim?”

  “I thought you didn’t want to bother me. Why don’t you pretend you never called, huh? Then I’ll pretend I never picked up the phone. I’m getting good at playing ‘let’s pretend’ out here on the painted desert.”

  “Listen, I could get a subpoena. You know I can do that. We could have this conversation in Washington. Or I could fly out there and come over to your house in Tempe. Show up for a barbecue some night.”

  “Hey, what the fuck’s the matter with you? What’s with you, Cross? The goddamn case is over. Leave it alone, and leave me the fuck alone.”

  There was something very strange in Chakely’s tone. He sounded ready to explode.

  “I talked to your partner tonight,” I said. That kept him on the line.

  “So. You talked to Mickey Devine. I talk to him myself now and then.”

  “I’m happy for both of you. I’ll even get out of your hair in a minute. Just answer a question or two.”

  “One question. That’s it,” Chakely finally said.

  “Do you remember seeing a dark late-model sedan parked on Sorrell Avenue? Anywhere around the Goldberg or Dunne house? Maybe a week or so prior to the kidnapping?”

  “Hell, no; Christ, no. Anything out of the ordinary would have gone in our log. The kidnapping case is closed. It’s over in my book. So are you, Detective Cross.”

  Chakely hung up on me.

  The tone of the conversation had been too weird. The unsolved “watcher” angle was driving me a little crazy. It was a big loose end. Too important to ignore if you were any kind of detective. I had to talk to Jezzie about Mike Devine and Charlie Chakely, and the logs they had kept. Something wasn’t checking out about the two of them. They were definitely holding back.

  CHAPTER 72

  JEZZIE AND I spent the day at her lake cottage. She needed to talk. She needed to tell me how she had changed, what she’d found out about herself on her sabbatical. Two very, very strange things happened down there In the Middle of Nowhere, North Carolina.

  We left Washington at five in the morning and got to the lake just before eight-thirty. It was the third of December, but it could have been the first of October. The temperature was in the seventies all afternoon, and there was a sweet mountain breeze. The chirp and warble of dozens of different birds filled the air.

  The summer people were gone for the season, so we had the lake to ourselves. A single speedboat swooped around the lake for an hour or so, its big engine sounding like a race car from
NASCAR. Otherwise, it was just the two of us.

  By mutual agreement, we didn’t push into any heavy subjects too quickly. Not about Jezzie, or Devine and Chakely, or my latest theories on the kidnappings.

  Late in the afternoon, Jezzie and I went for a long trek into the surrounding pine forests. We followed the spoor of a perfectly crystalline stream that climbed into the surrounding mountain range. Jezzie wore no makeup and her hair was loose and wild. She was in jean cutoffs, and a University of Virginia sweatshirt missing the sleeves. Her eyes were a beautiful blue that rivaled the color of the sky.

  “I told you that I found out a lot about myself down here, Alex,” Jezzie said as we hiked deeper and deeper into the forest. She was talking softly. She seemed almost childlike. I listened carefully to every word. I wanted to know all about Jezzie.

  “I want to tell you about me. I’m ready to talk now,” she said. “I need to tell you why, and how, and everything else.”

  I nodded, and let her go on.

  “My father… my father was a failure. In his eyes. He was street-smart. He could get along so beautifully socially—when he wanted to. But he came from the shanty side, and he let it put a huge chip on his shoulder. My father’s negative attitude got him in trouble all the time. He didn’t care how it affected my mother or me. He got to be a heavy drinker in his forties and fifties. At the end of his life, he didn’t have one friend. Or really any family. I imagine that’s why he killed himself…. My father killed himself, Alex. He did it in his unmarked car. There wasn’t any heart attack in Union Station. That’s a lie I’ve been telling ever since my college days.”

  We were both silent as we walked on. Jezzie had only talked about her mother and father once or twice. I’d known about their drinking problem, but I wouldn’t push her—especially because I couldn’t be Jezzie’s doctor. When she was ready, I’d thought that she would talk about it.

 
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