Along came a spider, p.31
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       Along Came a Spider, p.31
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         Part #1 of Alex Cross series by James Patterson

  Afterward, we sprawled on the beach. We watched the sun drop down onto the horizon, bleed into it, then disappear from sight.

  “Déjà vu, Alex.” Jezzie smiled. “Just like before. Or did I dream that?”

  “It’s different now,” I said, then quickly added, “We didn’t know each other so well before.”

  What was Jezzie really thinking? I knew that she must have a plan now, too. I figured she knew I was on to Devine and Chakely. She needed to know what I planned to do about them.

  A young black stud, muscular and trim in his white bathing suit and crisp hotel T-shirt, carried piña coladas down to our beach chairs.

  Let’s play “pretend” didn’t get any better than this.

  “Is this your honeymoon?” He was loose and carefree enough to joke with us.

  “It’s our second honeymoon,” Jezzie told him.

  “Well, enjoy it doubly,” said the smiling beach waiter.

  The slowdown pace of the island took over eventually. We had dinner at the hotel’s pavilion restaurant. More eerie déjà vu for the two of us. Sitting there in the perfect Caribbean surroundings, I believe that I felt more duplicitous, and completely unreal, than I had in my entire life.

  I watched the grilled pompano and grouper and turtle come and go. I listened to the reggae band get ready. And all the while, I was thinking that this beautiful woman beside me had let Michael Goldberg die. I was also certain she had murdered Maggie Rose Dunne, or at least been an accomplice. She’d never shown a hint of remorse.

  Somewhere back in the States was her share of the ten-million-dollar ransom. But Jezzie was smart enough to let me “split” the trip expenses with her. “Right down the middle, Alex. No free rides here, okay?”

  She ate island lobster and an appetizer plate of shark bites. She drank two ales at dinner. Jezzie was so smooth and smart. In a way, she was even scarier than Gary Soneji/Murphy.

  What do you talk about to a murderer, and someone you loved, over a perfect dinner and cocktails? I wanted to know so many things, but I couldn’t ask any of the real questions pounding in my head. Instead, we talked of the coming vacation days, a “plan” for the here and now in the islands.

  I stared across the dining table at Jezzie and I thought that she had never looked more physically striking. She kept tucking her blond hair behind one ear. It was such a familiar and intimate gesture, that nervous tic. What was Jezzie nervous and concerned about? How much did she know?

  “All right, Alex,” she finally said. “Do you want to tell me what we’re really doing on Virgin Gorda? Is there another agenda working here?”

  I had prepared myself for the question, but it still took me by surprise. She had fired it in beautifully. I was ready to lie. I could rationalize what I had to do. I just couldn’t make myself feel particularly good about it.

  “I wanted us to be able to talk, to really talk to each other. Maybe for the first time, Jezzie.”

  Tears started in the corners of Jezzie’s eyes. They slowly ran down her cheeks. Shiny streams in the candlelight.

  “I love you, Alex,” Jezzie whispered. “It’s just that—it will always be so hard for the two of us. It’s been hard so far.”

  “Are you saying the world isn’t ready for us?” I asked her. “Or aren’t we ready for the world?”

  “I don’t know which of those is right. Does it matter that it’s just so hard?”

  We walked along the beach after dinner, down toward a ship-wrecked galleon. The picturesque wreck was stranded about a quarter of a mile from the main pavilion and restaurant. The beach appeared to be deserted.

  There was some moonlight, but it got darker as we approached the fallen ship. Shredded pieces of clouds streamed across the sky. Finally, Jezzie was little more than a dark shape beside me. Everything about the moment made me extremely uncomfortable. I had left my gun in the room.

  “Alex.” Jezzie had stopped walking. At first, I thought she’d heard something, and I looked over my shoulder. I knew Soneji/Murphy couldn’t be down here. Was it possible I could be wrong?

  “I was wondering,” Jezzie said, “thinking about something from the investigation, and I don’t want to. Not down here.”

  “What’s bothering you?” I asked her.

  “You stopped talking to me about the investigation. How did you wind up with Chakely and Devine?”

  “Well, since you brought the subject up,” I said to her, “I’ll tell you. You were right all the time about the two of them. Another stone-cold dead end. Now. Let’s have a real vacation. We’ve both earned it.”

  CHAPTER 83

  GARY SONEJI/MURPHY watched, and his mind wandered. His mind traveled all the way back to the perfect Lindbergh kidnapping.

  He could still picture Lucky Lindy. The lovely Anne Morrow Lindbergh. Baby Charles Jr. in his crib, up in the second-story nursery of the farmhouse in Hopewell, New Jersey. Those were the days, my friends. Fantasy days at their best.

  What was he actually watching in the much more banal here and now?

  First, there was the pair of FBI goonigans in a black Buick Skylark. A male and a female goonie, to be precise, who were on stakeout duty. They were certainly harmless enough. No problem for him there. No challenge whatsoever.

  Next, there was the modern high-rise building where agent Mike Devine still lived in Washington. The Hawthorne, it was called. After Nathaniel, of the dark, brooding heart? Rooftop pool and sun deck, garage parking, concierge service around the clock. Very nice digs for the ex-agent. And the FBI goons were watching the building as if it might sprout wings and fly away.

  A few minutes past ten o’clock that morning, a Federal Express deliveryman entered the chichi apartment building.

  Moments later, dressed in the Federal Express uniform and carrying actual packages for two tenants in the Hawthorne, Gary Soneji/Murphy pushed the buzzer for 17J. Avon calling!

  When Mike Devine opened the door, Soneji sprayed him with the same strong chloroform potion he’d used on Michael Goldberg and Maggie Rose Dunne. Fair is fair.

  Just like the two children, Devine crumpled onto the wall-to-wall carpeting in his foyer. Rock music played from inside the apartment. The inimitable Bonnie Raitt. “Let’s Give Them Something to Talk About.”

  Agent Devine woke up after several minutes. He was woozy and had double vision. All of his clothes had been stripped off. He was totally confused and disoriented.

  He was propped up in the bathtub, with cold water halfway to the rim. His ankles were handcuffed to the faucet handles.

  “What the fuck is this?” His first words came out slurred and sloppy. He felt as if he’d had about a dozen highballs.

  “This is an extremely sharp knife.” Gary Soneji/Murphy bent over and showed off his Bowie hunting knife. “Watch this graphic demonstration. Focus those big blurry blue eyes of yours now. Focus, Michael.”

  Gary Soneji/Murphy barely nicked the former agent’s upper arm with the knife. Devine cried out. A dangerous-looking three-inch cut opened up instantly. Blood flowed into the cold, swirling bathwater.

  “Not another peep,” Soneji warned. He brandished the knife, threatening Devine with another nick. “This isn’t exactly the Sensor razor from Gillette or the Schick Tracer. More like scratch and bleed. So please, be careful.”

  “Who are you?” Devine attempted to speak again. He was still slurring badly. “Whoreyou?” he said.

  “Please allow me to introduce myself, I am a man of wealth and taste,” Soneji said. All right, yes, he was giddy with success. The prospects for his future were shining so bright again.

  Devine was even more confused now.

  “That’s from ‘Sympathy for the Devil.’ The Stones? I’m Gary Soneji/Murphy. Excuse the tacky delivery-boy uniform, the rather crude disguise. But I’m in sort of a hurry, don’t you know. It’s a pity, because I’ve been wanting to meet you for months. You rascal, you.”

  “What the hell do you want?” Devine struggled to maintain some of
his authority, in spite of the very dicey circumstances.

  “Cut to the chase, hmmmm. Okay, good. Because I am seriously rushed. Now. You have two very clear choices. ONE—I’ll have to cut off your penis here and now, put it in your mouth as a convenient gag, and then torture you with little flesh cuts, hundreds of cuts, starting with the face and neck, until you tell me what I need to know. All right so far? Am I being clear? To repeat—choice number one: painful torture leading inevitably to exsanguination.”

  Devine’s head involuntarily leaned back away from the looming madman. His vision was clearing, unfortunately. His eyes, in fact, were wide open. Gary Soneji/Murphy? In his apartment? With a hunting knife?”

  “SECOND OPTION,” the madman continued to rant in his face. “I am going to get the truth from you right now. Then I’ll go get my money, wherever you’ve stashed it. I’ll come back and kill you, but nicely—no theatrics. Who knows, you might even manage to escape while I’m gone. That’s doubtful, but hope springs eternal. I have to tell you, Michael, that’s the option I’d choose.”

  Mike Devine was clearheaded enough to make the correct choice, too. He told Soneji/Murphy where his share of the ransom money was. It was right there in Washington.

  Gary Soneji/Murphy believed him, but then, who could really tell about these things. He was dealing with a police officer, after all.

  Gary paused at the apartment door on his way out. In his best Arnold Schwarzenegger/Terminator voice, he said, “I’ll be back!”

  Actually, he was feeling exceptionally good about things today. He was solving the goddamned kidnapping himself. He was playing policeman, and it was kind of neat. The plan was going to work. Just like he’d always known it would.

  Cool beans.

  CHAPTER 84

  I SLEPT RESTLESSLY, waking just about every hour on the hour. There was no piano to go pound out on the porch. No Jannie and Damon to go wake. Only the murderer peacefully sleeping at my side.

  Only the plan I was there to execute.

  When the sun finally rose, the hotel kitchen staff fixed us a fancy box lunch to go. They packed a wicker basket with fine wines, French bottled water, expensive gourmet goodies. There were also snorkeling gear, fluffy towels, a striped yellow-and-white beach umbrella.

  Everything was already loaded onto a speedboat when we arrived on the dock, at just past eight. It took the boat about thirty minutes to get to our island—a beautiful, secluded spot. Paradise regained.

  We would be out there alone all day. Other couples from the hotel had their own private islands to visit. A coral reef encircled our beach, stretching out about seventy to a hundred yards from shore.

  The water was the clearest bottle green. When I looked straight down, I could see the texture of the sand on the bottom. I could have counted grains of sand. Angel and warrior fish darted around my legs in small spirited schools. A smiling pair of five-foot-long barracuda had followed our boat almost to the shoreline, then lost interest.

  “What time would you like me to come back?” the boat driver asked. “It’s your choice.”

  He was a muscular fisherman—a sailor in his forties. A happy-go-lucky type, he had shared big-fish and other colorful island stories on the way out. He seemed to think nothing of Jezzie and my being together.

  “Oh, I think two or three o’clock?” I looked for some help from Jezzie. “What time should Mr. Richards come back for us?”

  She was busy laying out beach towels and the rest of our exotic gear. “I think three is good. That sounds great, Mr. Richards.”

  “All right, then, have fun, you two.” He smiled. “You’re all alone. I can see my services are no longer required.”

  Mr. Richards saluted us, then hopped back into the boat. He started the engine, and soon vanished from sight.

  We were all alone on our private island. Don’t worry, be happy.

  There is something so strange and unreal about lying on a beach towel next to a kidnapper and murderer. I went over and over all of my feelings, plans, the things I knew I had to do.

  I tried to get control of my confusion and rage. I had loved this woman who was now such a stranger. I closed my eyes and let the sun relax my muscles. I needed to untense, or this wouldn’t work.

  How could you have murdered the little girl, Jezzie? How could you do that? How could you tell so many lies to everybody?

  Gary Soneji flew out of nowhere! He came suddenly, and with no warning.

  He had a foot-long hunting knife like the one he’d used in the D.C. ghetto killings. He was arched high overhead, his shadow covering me completely.

  There was no way he could have gotten onto the island. No way.

  “Alex. Alex, you were dreaming,” Jezzie said. She put a cool hand on my shoulder. She gently touched my cheek with the tips of her fingers.

  The long, mostly sleepless night… the warm sun and the cooling sea breeze… I had fallen asleep on the beach.

  I looked up at Jezzie. She had been the shadow over my body, not Soneji. My heart was pounding loudly. Dreams are as powerful as the real world to our nervous systems.

  “How long was I out?” I asked. “Whew.”

  “Just a couple of minutes, baby,” she said. “Alex, let me hold you.”

  Jezzie moved against me on the beach towel. Her breasts brushed my chest. She had taken off her bathing-suit top while I slept. Her smooth skin glowed with tanning oil. A thin line of moisture beaded on her upper lip. She couldn’t help looking good.

  I sat up and moved away from Jezzie on the towel. I pointed to where a garden of bougainvillea grew, almost to the seawater.

  “Let’s walk down along the beach. Okay? Let’s take a walk. I want to talk to you about a few things.”

  “What kind of things?” Jezzie asked me. She was clearly disappointed that I was putting her off, even for a moment. She’d wanted to make love on the beach. I didn’t.

  “C’mon. Let’s walk and talk a little,” I said. “This sun feels so good.”

  I pulled Jezzie up, and she came along with me somewhat reluctantly. She didn’t bother to put her top back on.

  We walked along the shoreline with our feet in the clear, calm water. We weren’t touching now, but we were only inches apart. It was so strange and unreal. It was one of the worst moments of my life, if not the worst.

  “You’re being so serious, Alex. We were going to have fun, remember? Are we having fun yet?”

  “I know what you did, Jezzie. It’s taken a while, but I finally pulled it together,” I told her. “I know that you took Maggie Rose Dunne from Soneji. I know that you killed her.”

  CHAPTER 85

  “I WANT TO TALK about all of it. I don’t have a wire on me, Jezzie. Obviously.”

  She half smiled at that. Always the perfect actress. “I can see you don’t,” she said.

  My heart was booming at a tremendous rate. “Tell me what happened. Just tell me why, Jezzie. Tell me what I spent almost two years trying to find out, and you knew all the time. Tell me your side of this.”

  Jezzie’s mask, which was always her perfectly beautiful smile, had finally disappeared. She sounded resigned. “All right, Alex. I’ll tell you some of what you want to know, what you just wouldn’t leave alone.”

  We continued to walk, and Jezzie finally told me the truth.

  “How did it happen? Well, in the beginning, we were just doing our job. I swear that’s true. We were babysitting the secretary’s family. Jerrold Goldberg wasn’t used to getting threats. The Colombians made a threat against him. He acted like the civilian that he is. He overreacted. He demanded Secret Service protection for his entire family. That’s how it all began. With a surveillance detail that none of us thought was necessary.”

  “So you assigned two lightweight agents.”

  “Two friends, actually. Not lightweights at all. We figured the detail would be a boondoggle. Then Mike Devine noticed that one of the teachers, a math teacher named Gary Soneji, had made a couple of passes by th
e Goldberg house. At first we thought he had a crush on the boy. Devine and Chakely thought he might be a pederast. Nothing much more than that. We had to check him out, anyway. It was in the original logs that Devine and Chakely kept.”

  “One of them followed Gary Soneji?”

  “A couple of times, yes. To a couple of places. We weren’t really concerned at that point, but we were following through. One night, Charlie Chakely tailed him into Southeast. We didn’t connect Soneji to the murders there, especially since the story never made any splash in the papers. Just more inner-city murders, you know.”

  “Yeah. I do know. When did you suspect something else about Gary Soneji?”

  “We didn’t suspect a kidnapping until he actually picked up the two kids. Two days before that, Charlie Chakely had followed him out to the farm in Maryland. Charlie didn’t suspect a kidnapping at the time. No reason to.

  “But he knew where the farm was located now. Mike Devine called me from the school when it all came crashing down. They wanted to go after Soneji then. That’s when it struck me about taking the ransom ourselves. I don’t know for sure. Maybe I’d thought of it before. It was so easy, Alex. Three or four days and it would be over. Nobody would be hurt. Not any more than they’d already been hurt. We’d have the ransom money. Millions.”

  The way Jezzie spoke about the kidnapping plot so casually was scary. She downplayed it, but it had been her idea. Not Devine’s or Chakely’s idea, Jezzie’s. She was the mastermind. “What about the children?” I asked. “What about Maggie Rose and Michael?”

  “They’d already been kidnapped. We couldn’t stop what had already happened. We staked out the farm in Maryland. We were confident that nothing could happen to the kids. He was a math teacher. We didn’t think he’d hurt them. We thought he was nothing but an amateur. We were completely in control.”

  “He buried them in a box, Jezzie. And Michael Goldberg died.”

 
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