Along came a spider, p.32
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       Along Came a Spider, p.32
 

         Part #1 of Alex Cross series by James Patterson

  Jezzie stared out to sea. She nodded slowly. “Yes, the little boy died. That changed everything, Alex. Forever. I didn’t know if we could have prevented it. We moved in and took Maggie Rose then. We made our own kidnap demands. The whole plan changed.”

  The two of us continued to walk along the edge of the shimmering water. If anyone had seen us, they probably would have thought we were lovers, having a serious talk about our relationship. The second half of that was true enough.

  Jezzie finally looked at me. “I want to tell you how it was between us, Alex. My side of things. It’s not what you think.”

  I had no words for her. It felt as if I were standing on the dark side of the moon again, and about to explode. My mind was screaming. I let Jezzie go on, let her talk. It didn’t really matter now.

  “When it started, down in Florida, I needed to know whatever you could find out. I wanted a connection inside the D.C. police. You were supposed to be a good cop. You were also your own man.”

  “So you used me to watch your flanks. You chose me to hand over the ransom. You couldn’t trust the Bureau. Always the professional, Jezzie.”

  “I knew you wouldn’t do anything to endanger the little girl. I knew you’d deliver the ransom. The complications started after we got back from Miami. I don’t know exactly when. I swear this is the truth.”

  I felt numb and hollow inside as I listened to her. I was dripping with perspiration, and not because of the beating sun.

  I wondered if Jezzie had brought a gun to the island? Always the professional, I reminded myself.

  “For what it’s worth now, I fell in love with you, Alex. I did. You were so many of the things I’d given up looking for. Warm and decent. Loving. Understanding. Damon and Janelle touched me. When I was with you, I felt whole again.”

  I was a little dizzy, and nauseated. It was exactly the way I’d felt for about a year after Maria died. “For what it’s worth, I fell in love with you, too, Jezzie. I tried not to, but I did. I just couldn’t have imagined anybody lying to me the way you did. Lying and deceiving. I still can’t believe all the lies. What about Mike Devine?” I asked.

  Jezzie shrugged her shoulders. That was her only answer.

  “You committed the perfect crime. A masterpiece,” I told her then. “You created the master crime that Gary Soneji always wanted to commit.”

  Jezzie peered into my eyes, but she seemed to be looking right through me. There was just one more piece to the puzzle now—one last thing that I had to know.

  One unthinkable detail.

  “What really happened to the little girl? What did you, or Devine and Chakely, do with Maggie Rose?”

  Jezzie shook her head. “No, Alex. That I can’t tell you. You know that I can’t.”

  She had folded her arms across ber chest when she’d begun to reveal the truth. Her arms remained tightly folded.

  “How could you kill a little girl? How could you do it, Jezzie? How could you kill Maggie Rose Dunne?”

  Jezzie suddenly whirled away from me. It was too much, even for her. She headed back toward the beach umbrella and towels. I took a quick step and I caught her arm. I grabbed the crook of her elbow.

  “Get your hands off me!” she screamed. Her face contorted.

  “Maybe you can trade me the information about Maggie Rose,” I shouted back. “Maybe we can make a trade, Jezzie!”

  She turned around. “They’re not going to let you open this case again. Don’t kid yourself, Alex. They don’t have a thing on me. Neither do you. I’m not going to trade you information.”

  “Yeah. Yeah, you are,” I said. My voice had gone from loud to close to a whisper. “Yes, you are, Jezzie. You’re going to trade information….

  You definitely are.”

  I pointed up toward the barranca and the palm trees that thickened as you got farther from the sandy beach.

  Sampson stood up from his hiding spot in the deep island brush. He waved something that looked like a silver wand. What he was actually holding was a long-distance microphone.

  Two FBI agents got up and waved, too. They stood beside Sampson. They’d all been out in the bush since before seven that morning. The agents were as red as lobsters around the face and arms. Sampson probably had the tan of his life, also.

  “My friend Sampson up there. He’s recorded everything you said since we started our walk.”

  Jezzie closed her eyes for several seconds. She hadn’t expected I would go this far. She didn’t think I had it in me.

  “You’ll tell us now how you murdered Maggie Rose,” I demanded.

  Her eyes opened and they looked small and black. “You don’t get it. You just don’t get it, do you?” she said.

  “What don’t I get, Jezzie? You tell me what I don’t get.”

  “You keep looking for the good in people. But it’s not there! Your case will get blown up. You’ll look like a fool in the end, a complete and utter fool. They’ll all turn on you again.”

  “Maybe you’re right,” I said, “but at least I’ll have this moment.”

  Jezzie moved to hit me, but I blocked her fist with a forearm. Her body twisted and she went down. The hard fall was a lot less than she deserved. Jezzie’s face was a brittle mask of surprise.

  “That’s a start, Alex,” she said from her sandy seat on the beach. “You’re becoming a bastard, too. Congratulations.”

  “Nah,” I said to Jezzie. “I’m just fine. There’s nothing wrong with me.”

  I let the FBI agents and Sampson make the formal arrest of Jezzie Flanagan. Then I took a skiff back to the hotel. I packed and was on my way back to Washington within the hour.

  CHAPTER 86

  TWO DAYS after we returned to D.C., Sampson and I were back on the road. We were headed for Uyuni, Bolivia. We had reason to hope and believe that we might have finally found Maggie Rose Dunne.

  Jezzie had talked and talked. Jezzie had traded information. She had refused to talk to the Bureau, though. She’d traded with me.

  Uyuni is in the Andes Mountains, one hundred and ninety-one miles south of Oruro. The way to get there is to land a small plane in Río Mulato, then go by jeep or van to Uyuni.

  A Ford Explorer held eight of us for the final leg of the difficult trip. I was in the minivan with Sampson, two special agents from Treasury, the U.S. ambassador to Bolivia, our driver, and Thomas and Katherine Rose Dunne.

  Charles Chakely and Jezzie had both been willing to trade information about Maggie Rose during the last grueling thirty-six hours. The butchered body of Mike Devine had been found in his Washington apartment. The manhunt for Gary Soneji/Murphy had intensified after the body was discovered. But so far, nothing. Gary was certainly watching the story of our trip to Bolivia on TV. Gary was watching his story.

  Chakely and Jezzie told virtually the same tale about the kidnapping. There had been an opportunity to take the ten-million-dollar ransom and get away with it. They couldn’t return the girl. They needed us to believe that Soneji/Murphy was the kidnapper. The girl could dispute that. They’d drawn the line at killing Maggie Rose, though. Or so they said back in Washington.

  Samson and I were quiet inside the minivan for the last miles of the trip through the Andes. So was everyone else.

  I watched the Dunnes as we approached Uyuni. They sat together quietly, a little distant from each other. As Katherine had told me, losing Maggie Rose had nearly destroyed their marriage. I was reminded of how much I had liked them in the beginning. I still liked Katherine Rose. We had talked for a while during the trip. She thanked me with genuine emotion and I would never forget that.

  I hoped their little girl was waiting safely at the end of this long and horrible ordeal… I thought about Maggie Rose Dunne—a little girl I had never met, and was about to meet soon. I thought about all the prayers said for her, the placards held outside a D.C. courthouse, the candles burning in so many windows.

  Sampson elbowed me as we drove through the village. “Look up the hill there, Al
ex. I won’t say this makes it all worthwhile. But maybe it comes close.”

  The minivan was climbing a steep hill in the village of Uyuni. Tin and wood shacks lined both sides of what was virtually an alleyway cut into rock. Smoke spiraled from a couple of the tin rooftops. The narrow lane seemed to continue straight up into the Andes Mountains.

  Maggie Rose was there waiting for us halfway up the road.

  The eleven-year-old girl stood in front of one of the nearly identical shacks. She was with several other members of a family called Patino. She had been with them for nearly two years. It looked as if there were a dozen other children in the family.

  From a hundred yards away, as the van strained up the rutted dirt road, we could all see her clearly.

  Maggie Rose wore the same kind of loose shirt, cotton shorts, and thongs as the other Patino children, but her blond hair made her stand out. She was tan; she appeared to be in good health. She looked just like her beautiful mother.

  The Patino family had no idea who she really was. They had never heard of Maggie Rose Dunne in Uyuni. Or in nearby Pulacayo, or in Ubina eleven miles over the high and mighty Andes Mountains. We knew that much from the Bolivian officials and police.

  The Patino family had been paid for keeping the girl in the village, keeping her safe, but keeping her there. Maggie had been told by Mike Devine that there was nowhere for her to escape to. If she tried, she would be caught and she would be tortured. She would be kept under the ground for a long, long time.

  I couldn’t take my eyes off her now. This little girl, who had come to mean so much to so many people. I thought of all the countless pictures and posters, and I couldn’t believe she was really standing there. After all this time.

  Maggie Rose didn’t smile, or react in any way, as she watched us coming up the hill in the U.S. embassy van.

  She didn’t seem happy that someone had finally come for her, that she was being rescued.

  She appeared very confused, wounded, and afraid. She would take a step forward, then a step backward, then look back at her “family.”

  I wondered if Maggie Rose knew what was happening. She had been severely traumatized. I wondered if she could feel anything at all. I was glad I could be there to help.

  I thought of Jezzie again, and I shook my head involuntarily. The storm inside wouldn’t stop. How could she have done this to the little girl? For a couple of million dollars? For all the money in the known universe?

  Katherine Rose was the first one out of the minivan. At that very moment, Maggie Rose opened her arms. “Mommy!” she cried out. Then, hesitating for only a split second, she seemed to leap forward. Maggie Rose ran toward her mother. They ran into each other’s arms.

  For the next minute, I couldn’t see much of anything through my tears. I looked at Sampson and saw a tear seeping from under his dark glasses.

  “Two tough de-tectives,” he said and grinned at me. It was that lone wolf’s smile I love.

  “Yeah, we sure are Washington, D.C.’s finest,” I said.

  Maggie Rose was finally going home. Her name was an incantation in my head—Maggie Rose, Maggie Rose. It was worth everything, just to see that moment.

  “The End,” Sampson pronounced.

  PART SIX

  THE CROSS HOUSE

  CHAPTER 87

  THE CROSS HOUSE was right there across the street. There it was, in all of its humble glory.

  The Bad Boy was mesmerized by the glittering orangish house lights. His eyes roamed from window to window. A couple of times, he caught sight of a black woman shuffling past one of the windows downstairs. Alex Cross’s grandmother, no doubt.

  He knew her name, Nana Mama. He knew Alex had named her that as a boy. In the last few weeks, he’d learned everything there was to know about the Cross family. He had a plan for them now. A neat little fantasy.

  Sometimes the boy liked to be afraid like this. Afraid for himself; afraid for the people in the house. He enjoyed this feeling as long as he could control it, and turn it on and off at will.

  He finally urged himself to leave his hiding place, to go even closer to the Cross house. To be the fear.

  His senses were much sharper when the fear was with him. He could concentrate and maintain focus for very long stretches of time. As he crossed 5th Street, there was nothing in his consciousness other than the house and the people inside.

  The boy disappeared into the bushes that ran alongside the front of the house. His heart was beating strongly now. His breathing was fast and shallow.

  He took one deep breath, then slowly let it out through his mouth. Slow down, enjoy this, he thought.

  He turned so that he faced away from the house. He could actually feel warmth from the walls on his back. He watched the inner-city street through the tangle of branches. It was always darker in Southeast. Streetlights were never replaced.

  He was careful. He took his sweet time. He watched the street for ten minutes or more. No one had seen him. No one was spying on him this time.

  “One last touch, and then on to other bigger and better things.”

  He thought the words, or spoke them under his breath. Sometimes he couldn’t tell which was which anymore. A lot of things were coming together now, becoming one: his thoughts, his words, his actions, his stories to himself.

  Each detail had been thought through hundreds of times before this particular night. Once they were all sound asleep, probably between two and three in the morning, he would take the two children, Damon and Janelle.

  He would drug them, right there in their bedroom on the second floor. He would let Doctor/Detective Alex Cross sleep through everything.

  He had to do that. The famous Dr. Cross needed to suffer a great deal now. Cross had to be part of the new search. That was the way it had to be. It was the only worthy solution. He would be the victor.

  Not that Cross would need any extra motivation, but he’d get it, anyway. First, the boy would murder the old woman, Cross’s grandmother. Then he would go to the children’s bedroom.

  None of it would ever be solved, of course. The Cross children would never ever be found. No ransom would be asked for. Then, finally, he could go on to other things.

  He’d forget about Detective Cross. But Alex Cross would never, ever forget about him. Or about his own missing children.

  Gary Soneji/Murphy turned toward the house.

  CHAPTER 88

  “ALEX, THERE’S SOMEONE inside the house. Alex, someone’s in here with us,” Nana whispered close to my ear.

  I was up and out of bed before she finished speaking the words. Years on Washington’s streets had taught me to move quickly.

  I heard the softest thump somewhere. Yes, someone was definitely in the house. The noise hadn’t been manufactured by our ancient heating system.

  “Nana, you stay here. Don’t come out until I call you,” I whispered to my grandmother. “I’ll yell when it’s okay.”

  “I’ll call the police, Alex.”

  “No, you stay right here. I am the police. Stay here.”

  “The children, Alex.”

  “I’ll get them. You stay here. I’ll bring the children. Please obey me this one time. Please obey me.”

  There was no one in the darkened hallway upstairs. No one I could see, anyway. My heart raced uncontrollably as I hurried to the children’s room.

  I listened for another sound in the house. It was too still now. I thought about the horrible violation: someone’s inside our house. I chased the thought away.

  I had to concentrate on him. I knew who it was. I’d kept my guard up for weeks after Sampson and I had returned with Maggie Rose. Finally, I’d let it down just a little. And he’d come.

  I hurried to the children’s room. I started to run down the upstairs hallway.

  I opened the creaking door. Damon and Janelle were still asleep in their beds. I would wake them quickly, then carry them both back to Nana. I never kept my gun upstairs because of the children. It was dow
nstairs in the den.

  I switched on the lamp beside the bed. Nothing! The light didn’t come on.

  I remembered the Sanders and Turner murders. Soneji had loved darkness. The darkness had been his calling card, his signature. He had always turned the electricity off. The Thing was here.

  Suddenly, I was struck very hard, with terrifying force.

  Something had hit me like a speeding runaway truck. I knew it was Soneji. He’d sprung on me! He nearly took me out with one blow.

  He was brutally strong. His body, his muscles, had been tensing and untensing for his entire life. He’d been doing isometrics since he’d been locked away in the basement of his father’s house. He’d been wound tight for almost thirty years: plotting to get even with the world, plotting to get the fame he thought he deserved.

  I Want to Be Somebody!

  He came again. We went down with a loud crash. The air was crushed from my stomach.

  The side of my head struck a sharp edge of the children’s bureau. My vision was clouded. My ears rang. I saw bright dancing stars everywhere.

  “Dr. Cross! Is that you? Did you forget whose show this is?”

  I could barely see Gary Soneji’s face when he screamed out my name. He tried to physically hurt me with the ear-splitting scream, the sheer force of his voice.

  “You can’t touch me!” he screamed again. “You can’t touch me, Doctor! Do you get it? Do you get it yet? I’m the star. Not you!”

  Blood was smeared all over his hands and arms. Blood was everywhere. I could see it now. Who had he hurt? What had he done in our house?

  I could see shapes in the shifting darkness of the children’s room. He had a knife raised high in one hand, canted in my direction.

  “I’m the star here! I’m Soneji! Murphy! Whoever I want to be!”

  I realized whose blood was swabbed all over his hands and arms. My blood. He’d stabbed me when he hit me the first time.

  He raised the knife to strike a second time and growled like an animal. The children were awake now. Damon screamed, “Daddy!” and Jannie started to cry.

 
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