Along came a spider, p.30
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       Along Came a Spider, p.30

         Part #1 of Alex Cross series by James Patterson
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  As the Bronco very slowly bumped along down memory lane, Gary Soneji/Murphy brought both his hands down over Fishenauer’s head and viciously around his throat. Element of surprise in that. He forced the metal of the cuffs straight back into the prison guard’s Adam’s apple.

  “What can I tell you, Bobby—I am a psychopathic liar, after all.”

  Fishenauer began to thrash and struggle fiercely. He couldn’t breathe. It was as if he were drowning.

  His knees cracked up hard under the dashboard and the steering wheel. The night was filled with the loud, animalistic growls coming from both men.

  Fishenauer managed to get his legs all the way over to the passenger side of the front seat. His work boot kicked the ceiling of the Bronco. His torso was twisted sideways, as if it were hinged. He gasped, and made the strangest noise. It sounded like metal burning, crackling on a stove.

  Fishenauer’s struggling eased off and finally stopped, except for some twitching of his limbs.

  Gary was free. Just as he had known from the very beginning he would be. Gary Soneji/Murphy was on the loose again.

  CHAPTER 79

  JEZZIE FLANAGAN walked down the hall to room 427 inside the Marbury Hotel in Georgetown. She was feeling compulsive again. Driven. She wasn’t happy about this secretive meeting and wondered what it was about. Jezzie thought that she knew, and hoped she was wrong. She wasn’t wrong too often.

  Jezzie rapped her knuckles against the door. She peered around behind her. It wasn’t paranoia on her part. She knew half the people in Washington were busy watching the other half.

  “It’s open. C’mon in,” she heard from inside.

  Jezzie opened the door and saw him lounging on the couch. He’d gotten a suite, which was a bad sign. He wanted to burn money.

  “Suites for the sweet.” Mike Devine smiled from the couch. He was watching the Redskins on TV. Cool as could be. In a lot of ways, he reminded Jezzie of her father. Maybe that was why she’d gotten involved with him. The perversity of it had been a turn-on.

  “Michael, this is very dangerous right now.” Jezzie stepped into the hotel room and shut the door. Bolted it. She made her voice seem concerned, rather than angry at him. Sweet, nice Jezzie.

  “Dangerous or not, we have to talk. You know, your boyfriend came to see me recently. He was parked outside my building this morning.”

  “He’s not my boyfriend. I’ve been pumping him for information that we’ve needed.”

  Mike Devine smiled. “You pump him, he pumps you. Is every-body happy? I’m not.”

  Jezzie sat down next to Devine on the couch. He was definitely sexy and he knew it. He had Paul Newman’s looks, minus the unbearably beautiful blue eyes. He also liked women, and it showed.

  “I shouldn’t be here, Michael. We shouldn’t be together now.” Jezzie rubbed her head against his shoulder. She gently kissed his cheek, his nose. She felt like doing anything but cuddling up with him now. But she could do it if she had to. She could do whatever it took.

  “Yeah, you should be here, Jezzie. What good is all this money if we can’t spend it, and we can’t be together.”

  “I seem to remember a few days down at the lake recently. Did I imagine that?”

  “To hell with stolen moments. Come to Florida with me.”

  Jezzie kissed his throat. He was clean-shaven and he always smelled nice. She unbuttoned his shirt and slid her hand in. Then she let her fingers graze the lump in his trousers. She was on automatic control now. Whatever it took.

  “We might have to get rid of Alex Cross. I’m serious,” he said in a whisper. “You hear me, Jezzie?”

  She knew he was testing her, trying to get a reaction. “It’s a serious thing to say. Let me work on it a little. I’ll find out what Alex knows. Be patient.”

  “You’re fucking him, Jezzie. That’s why you’re patient.”

  “No, I’m not.”

  She was undoing his belt, being a little clumsy with her left hand. She needed to keep him in line for a while longer.

  “How do I know you haven’t fallen for Alex Cross?” he persisted.

  “Because, Michael, I’m in love with you.” She pushed closer to Devine and held him. He was easy to fool. They all were. All she had to do now was wait out the FBI, and they were home free. Perfect. The crime of the century.

  CHAPTER 80

  I WAS ASLEEP when I got the call at four in the morning. A devastated Wallace Hart was on the line. He was calling from Fallston, where he had a serious problem on his hands.

  An hour later I was at the prison. I was one of four privileged insiders secreted in Wallace’s cramped, over-heated office.

  The press hadn’t been told about the sensational escape yet. They had to be alerted soon—there was no getting around that. They’d have a field day with the news flash that Soneji/Murphy was back on the loose.

  Wallace Hart was slumped over his paper-littered desk as if he’d been gut-shot. The others in the office were the prison warden and the prison’s attorney.

  “What do you know about this missing guard?” I asked Wallace at the first opportunity.

  “His name’s Fishenauer. Thirty-six years old. He’s been at the prison eleven years with a good service record,” said Hart. “Until today, he did his job.”

  “What’s your best guess? Is this guard Gary’s latest hostage?” I asked Wallace.

  “I don’t think so. I think the son-of-a-bitch bastard helped Soneji escape.”

  That same morning, the FBI set up round-the-clock surveillance on Michael Devine and Charles Chakely. One theory was that Soneji/Murphy might come after them. He knew that they had screwed up his master plan.

  The body of prison guard Robert Fishenauer was found in a dilapidated garage on the abandoned farm in Crisfield, Maryland. A twenty-dollar bill was stuffed into his mouth. The bill was not part of the Florida ransom money.

  The usual rumors of Soneji/Murphy “sightings” went on throughout the day. Nothing came of them.

  Soneji/Murphy was out there somewhere, laughing at us, probably howling in some dark cellar. He was back on the front page of every newspaper in the country. Just the way Gary liked it. The number-one Bad Boy of all time.

  I drove to Jezzie’s apartment that night around six. I didn’t want to go over there. My stomach wasn’t doing too well. My head was in even worse shape. I had to warn her that Soneji/Murphy might have her on his list, especially if he’d connected Jezzie with Devine and Chakely. I had to warn Jezzie, without telling her everything else I knew.

  As I climbed the familiar, redbrick porch stairs, I could hear rock music playing inside the house, making the walls tremble. It was Bonnie Raitt’s Taking My Time album. Bonnie was wailing “I Gave My Love a Candle.”

  Jezzie and I had played the Bonnie Raitt tape over and over at her lake cabin. Maybe she was thinking of me that night. I’d been doing a lot of thinking about Jezzie the past few days.

  I rang the bell, and Jezzie opened the screen door. She was wearing her usual attire: a wrinkled T-shirt, cutoffs, thongs. She smiled and looked glad to see me. So calm, cool, and collected. My stomach was knotted up tight. The rest of me was very cold. I knew what I had to do now. At least I thought I did.

  “And one more thing,” I said, as if we’d just finished our last conversation a minute ago.

  Jezzie laughed and opened the screen door. I didn’t go inside. I stood my ground on the porch. Wind chimes sounded from the house next door. I watched for some false move, something that would show me she didn’t have her act down perfectly. There was nothing.

  “How about a ride in the country? My treat,” I said to Jezzie.

  “Sounds good to me, Alex. I’ll put on some long pants.”

  A few minutes later we were on the bike, blasting away from her place. I was still humming “I Gave My Love a Candle.” I was also thinking everything through one final time. Making my plan, checking it twice. Gonna find out who’s naughty and nice.

  “We can ta
lk and ride the bike at the same time.” Jezzie turned her head and shouted into the wind.

  I held on to her back and chest tighter. That made me feel a little worse than I’d been feeling. I shouted against the side of her hair. “I was worried about you, with Soneji on the loose.” That much was true. I didn’t want to find Jezzie murdered. With her breasts cut off.

  She turned her head. “Why’s that? Why were you worried about me? My Smith and Wesson is at the house.”

  Because you helped ruin his perfect crime spree, and maybe he knows that, I wanted to say to her. Because you took that little girl from the farmhouse, Jezzie. You took Maggie Rose Dunne, and then you had to kill her, didn’t you?

  “He knows abut the two of us from the newspapers,” I said to Jezzie instead. “He might go after anyone who was involved with the case. Especially anybody he thinks helped spoil his little plan.”

  “Is that the way his mind works, Alex? You’d know if anybody would. You’re the criminal shrink.”

  “He wants to show the world how superior he is,” I said. “He needs this to be as big and as complicated as the Lindbergh thing was in its day. I believe that’s his Lindbergh angle. He wants his crime to be the biggest and the best. He isn’t through yet. Probably thinks he’s just getting started again.”

  “Who’s Bruno Hauptmann in our story? Who is Soneji trying to set up?” Jezzie called out over the wind.

  Was Jezzie trying to give me her own alibi? Was it possible that she’d been framed by Soneji somehow? That would be the ultimate… But how? And why?

  “Gary Murphy is Bruno Hauptmann,” I told her, because I thought I knew the answer. “He’s the one Gary Soneji cleverly framed. He was convicted and went to jail, and he’s innocent.”

  We talked back and forth for the first half hour of the ride. Then it got quiet for mile after mile of open highway.

  We were both off in our own private worlds. I found myself just holding on to her back. I was remembering different things about us. Feeling so bad inside; wanting all the feeling to stop. I knew that she was a psychopath, just like Gary. No conscience. I believed that business, the government, Wall Street were filled with people like that. No regret for their actions. Not unless they got caught. Then the crocodile tears started.

  “What if we go away again?” I finally asked Jezzie the question I’d been working up to. “Go down to the Virgin Islands again? I need it.”

  I wasn’t sure if she’d heard me. Then Jezzie said, “All right. I’d like some time in the sun. The islands it is.”

  I moved in behind her on the speeding motorcycle. The deed was done. We streaked through the beautiful countryside, but all the blurred passing scenes, everything that was happening now, hurt my head and it wouldn’t stop hurting.

  CHAPTER 81

  MAGGIE ROSE Dunne wanted to live more than anything else. She understood that now.

  She wanted her life to return to the way it had been. She wanted to see her mother and father so much. To see all of her friends, her Washington and Los Angeles friends, but especially Michael. What had happened to Shrimpie Goldberg? Had they let him go? Had he been ransomed, but for some reason she hadn’t?

  Maggie worked picking vegetables every day, and the work was hard, but, most of all, the work was the most boring thing she could ever imagine doing. She had to put her mind somewhere else during the long days under the burning sun. She just had to get her mind off what she was doing, and where she was.

  Nearly a year and a half after the kidnapping, Maggie Rose Dunne escaped from where they were hiding her.

  She had disciplined herself to wake up early every morning, before any of the others. She did this for weeks before she tried anything. It was still dark outside, but she knew the sun would start to rise in almost an hour. Then it would be so hot.

  She went into the kitchen in her bare feet, holding her work shoes in her hand. If they caught her now, she could say she was only going to the bathroom. Her bladder was full, a precaution she’d taken in case she was caught.

  They’d told her that she would never escape, not even if she got out of that particular village. It was over fifty miles to another town, in any direction she chose. So they told her.

  The mountains were full of snakes and dangerous cats. Sometimes she heard the cats growl at night. She would never make it to another town. They told her that.

  And if they did catch her, they would put her under the ground for at least a year. Did she remember what it was like being buried? Never seeing the light for days at a time?

  The kitchen door was locked. She had learned where the key was kept with a lot of other rusty old keys in a tool closet. Maggie Rose took the key, and also a small hammer to use as a weapon. She slid the hammer under the elastic of her shorts.

  Maggie used the key for the kitchen door. It opened, and she was outside. For the first time in so long, she was free. Her heart soared like the hawks she sometimes saw flying high over the hiding place.

  Just the act of walking by herself felt so good. Maggie Rose walked for several miles. She had decided to go downhill, rather than up the mountains—even though one of the children swore there was a town not far in that direction.

  She had taken two hard rolls from the kitchen and she snacked on them through the early morning. It started to warm as the sun rose. By ten o’clock, it was quite hot. She had been following a dirt road for miles, not walking in the road, but staying close enough. She always kept the road in sight.

  She walked on through the long afternoon, amazed that her strength held up in the heat. Maybe all the hard work in the fields had paid off. She was stronger now than she had ever been. She had muscles everywhere.

  Late in the afternoon, Maggie Rose could see the town as she continued down the mountainside. It was bigger and more modern than where she had been kept for so many months.

  Maggie Rose started to run down the final hills. The dirt road finally intersected with a concrete one. A real road. Maggie followed the road a short distance, and then there was a gas station. It was an ordinary gas station. shell, the sign said. She’d never seen anything more beautiful in her life.

  Maggie Rose looked up and the man was there.

  He asked her if she felt all right. He always called her Bobbi, and she knew that the man cared about her a little. Maggie told him that she was fine. She had just been lost in a thought.

  Maggie Rose didn’t tell him that she’d been making up stories again, wonderful fantasies to help her escape from her pain.

  CHAPTER 82

  GARY SONEJI/MURPHY undoubtedly still had his master plan. Now, I had mine. The question was: How well could I finish mine off? How powerful was my resolve to succeed, no matter what the human cost? How far was I willing to go? How close to the edge?

  The trip to Virgin Gorda began in Washington, D.C., on a bleak, rainy Friday morning. It was about fifty degrees. Under normal circumstances, I couldn’t have gotten out of there fast enough.

  We had to change to a three-engine Trislander in sun-drenched Puerto Rico. By three-thirty in the afternoon, Jezzie and I were gliding down toward a white sandy beach, a narrow landing strip bordered by tall palms swaying in the sea breeze.

  “There it is,” she said from the seat beside me. “There’s our place in the sun, Alex. I could stay here for about a month.”

  “It does look like what the doctor ordered,” I had to agree. We’d soon see about that. We’d see how long the two of us wanted to be alone together.

  “This weary traveler wants to be in that water. Not looking down at it,” Jezzie said. “Exist on fish and fruit. Swim till we drop.”

  “That’s what we came here for, isn’t it? Fun in the sun? Make all the bad guys go away?”

  “Everything is good, Alex. It can be. Just go with it a little.” Jezzie always sounded so sincere. I almost wanted to believe her.

  As the door of the Trislander opened, the fragrant smells of the Caribbean breezed in. Warm air rushed over the n
ine of us inside the small plane.

  Everybody was decked out in sunglasses and brightly colored T-shirts. Smiles broke out on nearly every face. I forced a smile, too.

  Jezzie took my hand. Jezzie was right there—and yet she wasn’t. Everything seemed dreamlike to me. What was happening now… couldn’t be happening.

  Black men and women with British accents took us through a sort of relaxed minicustoms. Neither Jezzie’s nor my bags were searched. This had actually been prearranged with the help of the U.S. State Department. Inside my bag was a small-caliber revolver—loaded and ready.

  “Alex, I still love it here,” Jezzie said as we approached the tiny queue for taxis. Along with the cabs were a number of scooters, bicycles, dirty minivans. I wondered if we’d ever take another motorcycle ride together again.

  “Let’s stay here forever,” she said. “Pretend we never have to leave. No more clocks, no radios, no news.”

  “I like the sound of that,” I told her. “We’ll play ‘let’s pretend’ for a while.”

  “You’re on. Let’s do it.” She clapped her hands like a child.

  The island scene seemed unchanged since our last visit. This had probably been the case since the Rockefeller family began to buy up the island back in the 1950’s.

  Cruise ships and sailboats were collecting out on the sparkling sea. We passed small restaurants and shops for snorkeling gear. The brightly painted one-story homes all had TV antennas sticking from their rooftops. Our place in the sun. Paradise.

  Jezzie and I had time to catch a swim at the hotel. We showed off a little. We stretched our bodies, racing out and back to a distant reef. I remembered our first swim together. The hotel pool in Miami Beach. The beginning of her act.

 
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