Along came a spider, p.28
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       Along Came a Spider, p.28

         Part #1 of Alex Cross series by James Patterson

  “Because I was ready. I’d been practicing for a long, long time. I wasn’t taking any chances. I also needed the money. I deserved to be a millionaire. Everybody else is.”

  “You came back to check the children again the following day?” I asked him.

  “The next day she was fine, too. But the day after Michael Goldberg died, Maggie Rose was gone! I drove into the barn, and there was the hole in the ground where I’d buried the box. Big hole in the ground. Empty! I didn’t harm her. I didn’t get the ransom money down in Florida, either. Somebody else has it. Now, you have to figure out what happened, Detective. I think I have! I think I know the big secret.”


  I WAS UP at three in the morning. Flying! Playing Mozart and Debussy and Billie Holiday on the porch. Junkies were probably calling the police to complain about the noise.

  I visited with Soneji again in the morning. The “Bad Boy.” I sat in his small windowless room. All of a sudden he wanted to talk. I thought I knew where he was going with all of this; what he was going to tell me soon. Still, I needed to have my opinion confirmed by him.

  “You have to understand something that is extremely foreign to your nature,” he said to me. “I was in heat when I was scouting the fucking famous girl and her actress mother. I am a ‘cheap thrill’ artist and junkie. I needed a fix.” I couldn’t help thinking of my own child-abuse patients as I listened to him relate his bizarre, grisly experiences. It was pathetic to hear a victim talking about his many victims.

  “I understood the ‘thrill state’ perfectly, Doctor. My theme song is ‘Sympathy for the Devil.’ The Rolling Stones? I always tried to take proper precautions—without breaking the spell. I had figured out escape routes, and backup escape routes, ways in and out of every neighborhood that I entered. One of these involved a sewer-system tunnel that goes from the edge of the ghetto out to Capitol Hill. I had a change of clothing inside the tunnel, including a wig. I’d thought of everything. I wouldn’t get caught. I was very confident about my abilities. I believed in my own omnipotence.”

  “Do you still believe in your omnipotence?” It was a serious question. I didn’t think he’d tell me the truth, but I wanted to hear what he had to say, anyway.

  He said, “What happened back then, my one mistake, was I permitted my successes, the applause of millions of admirers, to rush to my head. The applause can be a drug. Katherine Rose suffers from the same disease, you know. Most of the movie people, the sports icons, they do, too. Millions are cheering for them, you understand. They’re telling these people how ‘special’ and how ‘brilliant’ they are. And some of the stars forget any limitations they might have, forget the hard work that got them to the plateau originally. I did. At the time. That is precisely why I was caught. I believed I could escape from the McDonald’s! Just as I had always escaped before. I would just dabble in a little ‘spree’ killing, then get away. I wanted to sample all the high-impact crimes, Alex. A little Bundy, a little Geary, a little Manson, Whitman, Gilmore.”

  “Do you feel omnipotent now? Since you’re older and wiser?” I asked Soneji. He was being ironic. I assumed I could be, too.

  “I’m the closest thing to it you’ll ever see. I’m a way to understand the concept, no?”

  He smiled that blank killer smile of his again. I wanted to hit him. Gary Murphy was a tragic and almost likable sort of man. Soneji was hateful, pure evil. The human monster; the human beast.

  “When you scouted the Goldberg and Dunne houses, were you at the height of your powers?” Were you omnipotent then, shithead?

  “No, no, no. As you know, Doctor, I was already becoming sloppy. I’d read too many news accounts of my ‘perfect’ killing in Condon Terrace. ‘No traces, no clues, the perfect killer!’ Even I was impressed.”

  “What went wrong out in Potomac?” I thought I knew the answer. I needed him to confirm it.

  He shrugged. “I was being followed, of course.”

  Here we go, I thought to myself. The “watcher.”

  “You didn’t know it at the time?” I asked Soneji.

  “Of course not.” He frowned at the question. “I realized I was being followed much later. Then it was confirmed at the trial.”

  “How was that? How did you find out you were being followed?”

  Soneji stared into my eyes. He seemed to be staring straight through to the back of my skull.

  He considered me beneath him. I was just a vessel for his outpouring. But he found me more interesting than the others to talk to. I didn’t know whether to feel honored or defiled. He was also curious about what I knew, or what I didn’t know.

  “Let me stop to make a point,” he said. “This one is important to me. I have secrets to tell you. Lots of big and little secrets. Dirty secrets, juicy secrets. I’m going to give you one secret now. Do you know why?”

  “Elementary, my dear Gary,” I told him. “It’s hell for you to be under the control of others. You need to be in charge.”

  “That’s very good, Doctor Detective. But I do have some neat things to trade. Crimes that go all the way back to when I was twelve and thirteen years old. There are major unsolved crimes that go back that far. Believe me. I have a treasure trove of goodies to share with you.”

  “I understand,” I told him. “I can’t wait to hear about them.”

  “You always did understand. All you have to do is convince the other zombies to walk and chew Juicy Fruit at the same time.”

  “The other zombies?” I smiled at his slip.

  “Sorry, sorry. I didn’t mean to be rude. Can you convince the zombies? You know who I mean. You have less respect for them than I do.”

  That was true enough. I’d have to convince Chief of Detectives Pittman for one. “You’ll help me out? Give me something concrete? I have to find out what happened to the little girl. Let her parents have some peace at last.”

  “All right, I will do that,” Soneji said. It was so simple in the end.

  You wait. And you wait. That’s the way it goes in almost every police investigation. You ask thousands of questions, literally thousands. You fill entire file cabinets with unnecessary paperwork. Then you ask more questions. You follow countless leads that go nowhere. Then something goes right for a change. It happens every once in a while. It was happening now. A payout for thousands of hours of work. A reward for coming to see Gary again and again.

  “I didn’t notice any surveillance back then,” Gary Soneji continued. “And none of what I’m going to tell you about happened near the Sanders house. It occurred on Sorrell Avenue in Potomac. In front of the Goldberg house, in fact.”

  Suddenly I was tired of his chest-beating games. I had to know what he knew. I was getting close. Talk to me, you little fucker.

  “Go on,” I said. “What happened out in Potomac? What did you see at the Goldbergs’? Who did you see?”

  “I drove by there one of those nights before the kidnapping. A man was walking on the sidewalk. I thought nothing of him. It never registered until I saw the same man at the trial.”

  Soneji stopped talking for a moment. Was he playing again? I didn’t think so. He stared at me as if he were looking right into my soul. He knows who I am. He knows me, perhaps better than I know myself.

  What did he want from me? Was I a substitute for something missing from his childhood? Why had I been chosen for this horrific job?

  “Who was the man you recognized at the trial?” I asked Gary Soneji.

  “It was the Secret Service agent. It was Devine. He and his pal Chakely must have seen me watching the Goldberg and Dunne houses. They were the ones who followed me. They took precious Maggie Rose! They got the ransom in Florida. You should have been looking for cops all this time. Two cops murdered the little girl.”


  MY HUNCH about Devine and Chakely had been right after all. Soneji/Murphy was the only eyewitness, and he’d confirmed it. Now we had to move.

  I had to personally reopen the
Dunne-Goldberg case—and with news that no one in Washington would want to hear.

  I decided to talk to the FBI first…. Two cops had murdered Maggie Rose. The investigation had to be opened up again. The kidnapping hadn’t been solved the first time. Now the whole mess was going to blow up once more.

  I dropped in on my old buddy of buddies, Gerry Scorse, at FBI headquarters. After I cooled my heels for forty minutes in reception, Scorse brought me coffee and invited me into his office. “Come right in, Alex. Thanks for waiting.”

  He listened politely, and with apparent concern, as I went over what I had previously learned, and then what Soneji had told me concerning Secret Service agents Mike Devine and Charles Chakely. He took notes, a lot of notes on yellow foolscap.

  After I’d finished, Scorse said, “I have to make a phone call. Sit tight, Alex.”

  When he returned, he asked me to come upstairs with him. He never said it but I assumed he was impressed by the news from Gary Soneji.

  I was escorted to the deputy director’s private conference room on the top floor. The deputy, Kurt Weithas, is the number-two person at the Bureau. They wanted me to understand that this was an important meeting. I got it.

  Scorse went with me into the impressive, very cushy conference room. All the walls and most of the furnishings were dark blue, very sober and severe. The room reminded me of the cockpit of a foreign car. Yellow pads and pencils were laid out for us.

  It was clearly Weithas’s meeting from the start. “What we’d like to accomplish is twofold, Detective Cross.” Weithas spoke and acted like a very successful, very cool Capitol Hill lawyer. In a manner of speaking, that’s what he was. He wore a brilliant white shirt with a Hermès tie. He slipped off his wire-rimmed reading glasses when I entered the room. He appeared to be in a dark mood.

  “I’d like to show you all the information we have on agents Devine and Chakely. In return, we must ask for your full cooperation in keeping this matter absolutely confidential. What I’m telling you now… is that we’ve known about them for a while, Detective. We were running a parallel investigation to your own.”

  “You have my cooperation,” I said, trying not to show my surprise at his news. “But I’m going to have to file a report back at the department.”

  “I’ve already spoken to your commanding officer about the matter.” Weithas brushed that little detail aside. He’d already broken my confidence; he absolutely expected me to keep his. “You’ve been ahead of us a couple of times during the investigation. This time, maybe we’re a little ahead of you. Half a step.”

  “You have a little bigger staff,” I reminded him.

  Scorse took over for Weithas at that point. He hadn’t lost his touch for condescension. “We started our investigation of agents Devine and Chakely at the time of the kidnapping,” he said. “They were obvious suspects, though not ones we took seriously. During the course of the investigation a great deal of pressure was placed on both men. Since the Secret Service reports directly to the secretary of the treasury, you can imagine what they were subjected to.”

  “I watched most of it firsthand,” I reminded both FBI men.

  Scorse nodded, then went on.

  “On the fourth of January, Agent Charles Chakely resigned from the Service. He stated that he’d been thinking about the move long before the kidnapping, anyway. He said he couldn’t handle the innuendos, all the media attention. His resignation was accepted immediately. At about the same time, a small error in the daily logs kept by the agents was discovered by us. A date had been inadvertently reversed. It was nothing major, except that we were checking everything about the case at the time.

  “We eventually got nine hundred of our agents directly or indirectly involved,” the deputy director added. I had no idea what his point was yet.

  “Other inconsistencies in the agents’ logs were eventually discovered,” Scorse continued. “Our technical experts concluded that two of the individual reports had been doctored, that is, rewritten. We ultimately came to believe that what was taken out were references to the teacher Gary Soneji.”

  “They had spotted him checking out the Goldberg house in Potomac,” I said. “If Soneji can be believed.”

  “On this point, I think he can. What you’ve recently had confirmed corresponds to our findings. We believe that the two agents observed Soneji watching Michael Goldberg and Maggie Rose Dunne. We think one of the agents followed Soneji, and discovered the hiding place in Crisfield, Maryland.”

  “You’ve been watching the two agents ever since?” I asked Gerry Scorse.

  He nodded once, just as efficient as ever. “For a couple of months, anyway. We also have good reason to believe they know we’re watching. Two weeks after Chakely resigned, Devine also resigned from the Service. He said he and his family couldn’t take the presssure associated with what had happened, either. Actually, Devine and his wife are separated.”

  “I assume Chakely and Devine haven’t tried to spend any of the money,” I said.

  “To our knowledge, no. As I said before, they know we’re suspicious. They aren’t dumb. Not at all.”

  “It’s come down to a rather delicate and intricate waiting game,” Weithas said. “We can’t prove anything yet, but we can disrupt their lives. We can sure as hell keep them from spending any of the ransom money.”

  “What about the pilot in Florida? There was no way I could run an investigation down there. Did you ever find out who he was?”

  Scorse nodded. The FBI had been withholding a lot from me. From everybody. I wasn’t surprised. “He turned out to be a drug runner named Joseph Denyeau. He was known to some of our people in Florida. It’s conceivable that Devine knew Denyeau and hired him.”

  “What happened to this Joseph Denyeau?”

  “In case we had any doubts about whether Devine and Chakely play for keeps—they do. Denyeau was murdered in Costa Rica. His throat was cut. He wasn’t supposed to be found.”

  “You’re not going to bring Devine and Chakely in at this point?”

  “We don’t have any proof, Alex. None. Nothing that will hold up. What you got from Soneji cements it, but won’t help in court.”

  “What happened to the little girl? What happened to Maggie Rose Dunne?” I asked Weithas.

  Weithas didn’t say anything. He blew out air over his upper lip. I got the feeling he was having a long day. In a long year.

  “We don’t know,” Scorse answered. “There’s still nothing on Maggie Rose. That’s the amazing thing in all this.”

  “There’s another complication,” Weithas said to me. He was seated with Scorse on a dark leather sofa. Both FBI men were leaning over a glass coffee table. An IBM computer and printer sat off to one side.

  “I’m sure there are a lot of complications,” I said to the deputy director. Leave it to the FBI to keep most of them to themselves. They could have helped me along the way. Maybe we would have found Maggie Rose if we’d worked together.

  Weithas glanced at Agent Scorse, then he looked back at me. “Jezzie Flanagan is the complication,” Weithas said.

  I was stunned. I felt as if I’d been punched hard in the stomach. For the last few minutes, I knew something else was coming from them. I just sat there, feeling cold and empty inside, well on my way to feeling nothing.

  “We believe she’s deeply involved in this with the two men. Has been from the start. Jezzie Flanagan and Mike Devine have been lovers for years.”


  AT EIGHT-THIRTY that night, Sampson and I walked along New York Avenue. It is in the tenderloin of D.C.’s ghettos. It’s where Sampson and I hang out most nights. It’s home.

  He had just asked me how I was holding up. “Not too good, thanks. Yourself?” I said.

  He knew about Jezzie Flanagan. I’d told him everything I knew. The plot thickened and thickened. I couldn’t have felt any worse than I did that night. Scorse and Weithas had laid out a thorough case involving Jezzie. She’d done it. There was no
room for doubt. One lie had led to another. She’d told me a hundred if she’d told me one. Never flinched once. She was better at it than Soneji/Murphy. Real smooth and confident.

  “You want me to keep my mouth shut? Or talk at you?” Sampson asked me. “I’ll do it either way.”

  His face was expressionless, as it usually is. Maybe it’s the sunglasses that create that impression, but I doubt it. Sampson was like that when he was ten years old.

  “I want to talk,” I told John. “I could use a cocktail. I need to talk about psychopathic liars.”

  “I’ll buy us a few drinks,” Sampson said.

  We headed toward Faces. It’s a bar we’ve been going to since we first joined the police force. The regulars in Faces don’t mind that we’re tough-as-nails D.C. detectives. A few of them even admit that we do more good than harm in the neighborhood.

  The crowd in Faces is mostly black, but white people come by for the jazz. And to learn how to dance, and dress.

  “Jezzie was the one who assigned Devine and Chakely in the first place?” Sampson reviewed the facts as we waited for the stoplight at 5th Street.

  A couple of local punks eyed us from their lookout in front of Popeye’s Fried Chicken. In times past, the same kind of street trash would have been on the same corner, only without so much money, or guns, in their pockets. “Yo, brothers.” Sampson winked at the thugs. He fucks with everybody’s head. Nobody fucks back.

  “Right, that’s how it all started. Devine and Chakely were one of the teams assigned to Secretary Goldberg and his family. They worked under Jezzie.”

  “And nobody ever suspected them?” he asked me.

  “Not at first. The FBI checked them out. They checked everybody out. Chakely’s and Devine’s daily logs were off. That’s when they became suspicious. Some watchdog analyst at the Bureau figured out that the logs had been doctored. They had twenty people for every one we had. Besides that, the FBI removed the doctored logs so none of us could find them.”

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