Along came a spider, p.29
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       Along Came a Spider, p.29
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         Part #1 of Alex Cross series by James Patterson

  “Devine and Chakely spotted Soneji checking out one of the kids. That’s how the whole circus began? The double take.” Sampson had the general rhythm of the thing now.

  “They followed Soneji and his van out to the farm in Maryland. They realized they were stalking a potential kidnapper. Somebody got the idea to kidnap the kids after the actual kidnapping.”

  “Ten-million-dollar idea.” Sampson glowered. “Was Ms. Jezzie Flanagan in on it from the beginning?”

  “I don’t know. I think so. I’ll have to ask her about that sometime.”

  “Uh huh.” Sampson nodded with the flow of our conversation. “Your head above, or below, the water line right now?”

  “I don’t know that, either. You meet somebody who can lie to you the way she did, it changes your perspective on things. This is very tough to handle, man. You ever lie to me?”

  Sampson showed some of his teeth. It was halfway between a smile and a growl. “Sounds like your head’s a little below water to me.”

  “Sounds like it to me, too,” I admitted. “I’ve had better days. But I’ve had worse. Let’s have that beer.”

  Sampson gave the gunner’s salute to the punks on the corner. They laughed and gave us the high sign. Cops and robbers in the ’hood. We crossed the street to Faces. A little oblivion was in order.

  The bar was crowded, and would be that way until closing. People who knew Sampson and me said hello. A woman I’d gone out with was at the bar. A real pretty, real nice social worker who had worked with Maria.

  I wondered why nothing had come of it. Because of some deep-down character flaw I have? No. Couldn’t be that.

  “You see Asahe over there?” Sampson gestured.

  “I’m a detective. I see everything, right. Don’t miss a trick,” I said to him.

  “You soundin’ a little sorry for yourself. Little ironic, I’d say. Two beers. Nah, make it four,” he told the bartender.

  “I’ll get over it,” I said to Sampson. “You just watch. I just had never put her on our suspect list. My mistake.”

  “You’re tough, man. Got your nasty old grandma’s genes. We gonna fix you up,” he said to me. “Fix her ass, too. Ms. Jezzie’s.”

  “Did you like her, John? Before any of this came up?”

  “Oh yeah. Nothing not to like. She lies real good, Alex. She’s got talent. Best I’ve seen since that movie Body Heat,” said Sampson. “And no, I never lie to you, my brother. Not even when I should.”

  The hard part came after Sampson and I left Faces that night. I’d had a few beers, but was mostly coherent, and nearly dulled to the worst of the pain. And yet it was such a shock that Jezzie had been part of it all this time. I remembered how she’d led me away from Devine and Chakely as suspects. She’d pumped me for anything new the D.C. police had picked up. She’d been the ultimate insider. So confident and cool. Perfect in her part.

  Nana was still up when I got back to the house. So far I hadn’t told her about Jezzie. Now was about as awful a time as any. The beers helped some. Our history together helped even more. I told Nana the truth straight out. She listened without interrupting, which was an indication of how she was taking the news.

  After I had finished, the two of us sat there in the living room, just looking at each other. I was on the hassock, with my long legs spread out in her general direction. Screaming silence was everywhere around us.

  Nana was bunched under an old oatmeal-colored blanket in her easy chair. She was still nodding gently, biting her upper lip, thinking over what I’d told her.

  “I have to start someplace,” she finally said, “so let me start here. I will not say, ‘I told you so,’ because I had no idea it would be this bad. I was afraid for you, that’s all. But not about anything like this. I could never have imagined this terrible thing. Now please give me a hug before I go up and say my prayers. I will pray for Jezzie Flanagan tonight. I really will. I’ll pray for us all, Alex.”

  “You know what to say.” I told her the bottom-line truth. She knew when to slap you down and when to give a needed pat on the rear end.

  I gave Nana a hug, and then she trudged upstairs. I stayed downstairs and thought about what Sampson had said earlier—we were going to fix Jezzie’s ass. Not because of anything that had happened between the two of us, though. Because of Michael Goldberg and Maggie Rose Dunne. Because of Vivian Kim, who didn’t have to die. Because of Mustaf Sanders.

  We were going to get Jezzie, somehow.

  CHAPTER 77

  ROBERT FISHENAUER was a supervisor at Fallston Prison. Today, he thought, that was a very good thing. Fishenauer believed that he just might know where the ten million dollars in kidnap money was hidden. At least a large part of the ransom. He was going to take a little peekaboo right now.

  He also had a pretty good idea that Gary Soneji/Murphy was still messing with everybody’s head. Big time. And nonstop.

  As Fishenauer drove his Pontiac Firebird down Route 50 in Maryland, a host of questions was circulating through his head. Was Soneji/Murphy the kidnapper? Did he really know where the ransom money was? Or was Gary Soneji/Murphy full of shit? Just one more tutti-frutti nut case out at Fallston.

  Fishenauer figured he would know everything pretty soon. Another few miles of state road, and he’d know more than anybody, except for Soneji/Murphy himself.

  The turnoff was the seldom-used back way into the old farm. The road was almost completely gone now. Fishenauer saw this as he made the right turn off the main highway.

  Cattails and sunflowers grew the length of what had obviously once been a road. There weren’t even wheel ruts in the crusted-over dirt.

  The vegetation was knocked down. Someone had come crashing through here in the past few months. Was it the FBI and local police? They had probably searched the farmhouse grounds a dozen times.

  But had they searched the grounds of the deserted farm well enough? Robert Fishenauer wondered to himself. That was the ten-million-dollar question now, wasn’t it?

  Around five-thirty in the afternoon, Fishenauer pulled his dusty red Firebird up alongside a dilapidated garage just to the left of the main farmhouse. The adrenaline was really pumping now. Nothing like a treasure hunt to get the juices flowing.

  Gary had raved about how Bruno Hauptmann had hidden part of the Lindbergh ransom in his garage in New York City. Hauptmann had been trained as a carpenter, and he’d built a secret compartment for the money into a wall in his garage.

  Gary said he’d done something like that out at the old farm in Maryland. He’d sworn it was the truth, and that the FBI would never find it.

  Fishenauer switched off the Firebird’s rumbling engine. The sudden quiet was eerie. The old house sure looked deserted, and very creepy. It reminded him of a movie called The Night of the Living Dead. Except that he was starring in this creepy-crawler.

  Weeds were growing everywhere, even springing out of the roof of the garage. Water stains ran down the sides of the garage.

  “Well, Gary-boy, let’s see if you’re completely full of shit. I hope to hell you’re not.”

  Robert Fishenauer took a deep breath and climbed out of his low-slung car. He’d already figured out what he would say if he got nailed here. He’d just say that Gary had told him where he’d buried Maggie Rose Dunne. But Fishenauer had figured it was only some of his crazy talk.

  Still, it had gnawed at him.

  So now here he was in Creepsville, Maryland, checking it out. Actually, he felt dumb. He also felt kind of bad, guilty, but he had to check this one for himself. Had to, man. This was his personal ten-million-dollar lottery. He had his ticket.

  Maybe he was about to find out where little Maggie Rose Dunne was buried. Jesus, he hoped not. Or maybe it was the buried treasure that Gary had promised him.

  He and Gary-boy had talked a lot, for hours at a time, back at the hole. Gary loved to talk about his exploits. His baby, as he called the kidnapping caper. His “perfect” crime.

  Right! So “perfec
t” he was serving life plus in a max-security prison for the criminally insane.

  And here Robert Fishenauer was, right at the moldy front door into Creepsville. The scene of the crime, as they say.

  There was a badly rusted metal latch on the door. Fishenauer slipped on a pair of winter golf gloves—hard to explain those if he got caught snooping out here. He flipped up the door latch. He had to pull the door hard toward him through the thick overgrowth.

  Flashlight time. He took out his lamp and turned it on full blast. Gary said he’d find the money on the right side of the garage, the far right corner, to be exact.

  A lot of old, broken-down farm machines lay all around the garage. Cobwebs stuck against his face and neck as he walked forward. The strong smell of decay was on everything.

  Halfway into the garage, Fishenauer stopped and turned around. He stared out the open door, and listened for what must have been a full ninety seconds.

  He heard a jet plane somewhere off in the distance. There was no other sound. He sure hoped there was no one else around.

  How long could the FBI afford to watch a deserted farm? Not almost two years after the kidnapping!

  Satisfied that he was alone, Fishenauer continued to the back of the garage. Once he was there, he started to work.

  He pulled a sturdy old workbench over—Gary had said the bench would be there. He’d seen by now that Gary had described the place in pretty amazing and accurate detail. Gary’d said where every broken piece of machinery lay. He’d told Fishenauer the exact location of just about every slat of wood in the rotting garage walls.

  Standing on the old workbench, Fishenauer began to pull away old boards, up where the garage roof met the wall. There was a space back there. Just like Gary said there was.

  Fishenauer aimed his flashlight into the hole in the wall. There it was, part of the ransom money that Gary Soneji/Murphy wasn’t supposed to have. He couldn’t believe his eyes. A stack of money was right there in the garage walls.

  CHAPTER 78

  AT 3:16 the following morning, Gary Soneji/Murphy pressed his forehead against the cold metal bars that separated his cell from the prison corridor. He had another big part to act out. Hellzapoppin!

  He started to throw up onto the highly polished linoleum floor—just as he had planned to. He was violently ill inside the cell. He yelled for help between wheezing gasps.

  Both of the night guards came running. There had been a suicide watch on Gary since his first day here. Laurence Volpi and Phillip Halyard were veterans of many years’ service at the federal prison. They weren’t too keen on disturbances in the cell block, particularly after midnight.

  “What the hell’s the matter with you?” Volpi yelled as he watched the green and brown puddle slowly spreading on the floor. “What’s your problem, asshole?”

  “I think I’ve been poisoned,” Soneji/Murphy gasped and wheezed, the sound coming from deep inside his chest. “Somebody’s poisoned me. I’ve been poisoned! I think I’m dying. Oh my God, I’m dying!”

  “Best news I’ve heard lately,” Phillip Halyard said to his partner and grinned. “Wish I’d thought of it first. Poison the bastard.”

  Volpi took out his walkie-talkie, and called for the night supervisor. The suicide watch on Soneji was a big deal with the prison higher-ups. It sure wasn’t going to happen on Volpi’s shift.

  “I’m going to be sick again,” Gary Soneji/Murphy moaned. He sagged heavily against the bars and threw up a second time—violently.

  Moments later, the floor’s supervisor arrived. Laurence Volpi quickly told his boss what had happened. It was his standard cover-thy-ass speech.

  “He says he’s been poisoned, Bobby. I don’t know what the hell happened. It’s possible. Enough of these bastards hate his guts.”

  “I’ll take him downstairs to the hospital myself,” Robert Fishenauer said to his men. Fishenauer was a take-charge guy, anyway. Volpi had counted on it. “They’ll have to pump his stomach, I guess. If there’s anything left to pump. Cuff him for me good. Hands and legs. He doesn’t look in shape to be much trouble tonight.”

  Moments later, Gary Soneji/Murphy figured he was halfway to daylight. The prison elevator was padded. The walls were covered with heavy cloth mats. Other than that, it was ancient and painfully slow. His heart was pounding like a bass drum. A little healthy fear in his life. He’d missed the adrenaline kick.

  “You all right?” Fishenauer asked as he and Gary Soneji/Murphy descended, seemingly inch by inch. A single bare light bulb protruded from a hole in the mats. It cast a dim light.

  “Am I all right? What does it look like? I made myself good and sick. I am sick,” Soneji/Murphy told him. “Why the hell doesn’t this thing move faster?”

  “You going to puke again?”

  “It’s entirely possible. A small price to pay.” Soneji/Murphy managed a thin smile. “A very small price, Bobby.”

  Fishenauer grunted. “I guess so. Just keep it away from me if you decide to pukeski again.”

  The elevator bypassed the next floor, and the next. It was nonstop. It dropped all the way to the basement of the building, where it landed with a hollow thump.

  “We see anybody, we’re going for X rays,” Fishenauer said as the elevator door opened. “X-ray is down here in the basement.”

  “Yes, I’m aware of the plan. It’s my plan,” said Gary Soneji/Murphy.

  Because it was past three in the morning, they saw no one as they started their walk down the long tunnel in the prison basement. Halfway through the tunnel, there was a side door. Fishenauer used his key to open it.

  There was another short stretch of silent empty hallway. Then they were at a security door. This was where the shit would hit the fan, and Soneji/Murphy had to do his stuff. This was where Fishenauer would see if Soneji/Murphy was as good as his reputation. Fishenauer didn’t have a key to the security door.

  “Give me your gun now, Bobby. Just think about ten million dollars. I can do this next bit, so all you have to worry about is your part of the money.”

  This was it. Soneji made it sound so easy. Do this, do that. Get a piece of ten million dollars. Fishenauer reluctantly handed over his revolver. He didn’t want to think about what he was doing anymore. This was his chance to get out of Fallston, too. His only chance. Otherwise, Fishenauer knew he would be at Fallston for the rest of his life.

  “There’s nothing fancy here, Bobby, but this will work. You play everything to Kessler. Look real scared.”

  “I am fucking scared.”

  “You should be, Bobby. I have your gun.”

  There were two prison guards on the other side of the security door. A waist-high Plexiglas window gave them a view of the unbelievable sight coming their way.

  They saw Soneji/Murphy with a gun stuck to the left temple of supervisor Bob Fishenauer. Soneji/Murphy had on arm and leg cuffs, but he also had a gun. Both guards stood up fast. They held their riot shotguns above the glass. They didn’t have time to make another move.

  “You’re gawking at a dead guard,” Gary screamed at the top of his voice, “unless you open that fucking door in about five seconds. No more than that!”

  “Please!” Fishenauer suddenly screamed at his fellow guards. He was scared, all right. Soneji had the gun pressed hard against his temple. “He killed Volpi upstairs.”

  It took less than five seconds for an older guard—Stephen Kessler—to make his decision. He turned the key that opened the security door. Kessler was a friend of Robert Fishenauer’s, and Soneji had counted on that. Soneji had thought of everything. He’d known that Robert Fishenauer was a “lifer” at the prison; that he was trapped there just like the inmates. He’d talked about Fishenauer’s anger and frustrations, and he’d been spot on. He was the smartest fucker Robert Fishenauer had ever met. He was going to make Fishenauer a millionaire.

  The two of them headed for Fishenauer’s car. The Firebird was parked close to the front gate. Fishenauer had left the sports-car d
oor unlocked.

  They were inside the car in a flash.

  “Very nice wheels, Bobby,” said Gary Soneji/Murphy. “Now you’ll be able to buy a Lamborghini. Two or three, if you want to make a statement.”

  Soneji lay down across the backseat. He slid under a blanket that Fishenauer’s collie usually slept on. It smelled strongly of dog.

  “Now let’s get out of this rattrap,” Soneji/Murphy said from the back. Robert Fishenauer started up the Firebird.

  Less than a mile from the prison, they changed cars. A Bronco was parked on the street and they quickly jumped inside.

  A few minutes later, they were on the highway. Light traffic, but more than enough for them to get lost in.

  A little less than ninety minutes later, the Bronco turned onto the overgrown driveway of the old farm in rural Maryland. During the ride, Soneji/Murphy had allowed himself the small, but exquisite, pleasure of savoring his original master plan. He loved the idea that two years before, he’d actually thought to leave some cash hidden in the garage. Not the ransom money, of course. Just for this moment in time. How prescient of him.

  “Are we there yet?” Gary Soneji/Murphy finally spoke up from under the blanket.

  Fishenauer didn’t answer right away, but Gary knew that they were there by the bumps in the road. He sat up in the cramped backseat of the Bronco. He was almost home free home. He was invincible.

  “It’s time to get rich,” he said and laughed out loud. “Do you plan to take off these matching cuffs at some point?”

  Robert Fishenauer didn’t bother to turn around. As far as he was concerned, this was still a keeper/keepee relationship. “Just as soon as I have my part of the ransom money,” he spoke out of the corner of his mouth. “Then, and only then, you’re free!”

  Soneji/Murphy talked to the back of Fishenauer’s head. “You sure you have the keys to these cuffs, Robert?”

  “Don’t worry about it. You sure you know where the rest of the ransom money is hidden?”

  “I’m sure.”

  Soneji/Murphy was also sure that Fishenauer had the keys on him. Gary had been extremely claustrophobic during the past hour and a half. That was one of the reasons he’d put his mind elsewhere: into his master plan. Memories of the basement back home had been flashing before him during the whole trip. He’d seen his stepmother. Seen her two spoiled bastard kids. He’d played himself as a boy again—the glorious adventure of the Bad Boy. His fantasy life had taken over for a while.

 
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