Along came a spider, p.33
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       Along Came a Spider, p.33
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         Part #1 of Alex Cross series by James Patterson

  “Get out of here, kids!” I shouted. But they were too terrified to leave their beds.

  He feinted with the knife once, then the blade slashed at me again. I moved and the knife cut a glancing blow across my shoulder.

  This time the pain was there, and I knew exactly what it was. Soneji’s knife had sliced into my upper shoulder.

  I yelled loudly at Soneji/Murphy. The children were crying. I wanted to kill him now. My mind was going to burst. There was nothing left in me but rage at this monster inside my house.

  Soneji/Murphy raised his knife again. The lethal blade was long, and so sharp I hadn’t even felt the first wound. It had cut right through.

  I heard another scream—a fierce shriek. Soneji stood frozen for the eeriest split second.

  Then he whirled around with another growl.

  A figure came sweeping at him from the doorway. Nana Mama had distracted him.

  “This is our house!” she shouted with all her fury. “Get out of our house!“

  A glint of light caught my eye on the bureau. I reached out and grabbed the scissors on top of Jannie’s book of paper dolls. A pair of Nana’s shearing scissors.

  Soneji/Murphy slashed out with his knife again. The same knife he’d used in his murders around the projects? The knife he’d used on Vivian Kim?

  I swung the scissors at him and felt tearing flesh. The shearing scissors slashed down across his cheeks. His cry echoed through the bedroom. “Motherfucker!”

  “Something to remember me by,” I taunted him. “Who’s bleeding now? Soneji or Murphy?”

  He screamed something I didn’t understand. Then he rushed at me again.

  The scissors caught him somewhere on the side of his neck. He jumped back, pulling them right from my hand.

  “C’mon you bastard!” I yelled.

  Suddenly he reeled and staggered out of the children’s bedroom. He never struck out at Nana, the mother figure. Maybe he was too badly wounded to strike back.

  He held his face in both hands. His voice rose in a high, piercing scream as he ran from the room. Could he be in another fugue state? Was he lost inside one of his fantasies?

  I had gone down on one knee and wanted to stay there. The noise was a loud roar in my head. I managed to get up. Blood was splattered everywhere, on my shirt, all over my shorts, my bare legs. My blood, and his.

  A rush of adrenaline kept me going. I grabbed some clothes and went after Soneji. He couldn’t escape this time. I wouldn’t let him.


  I RAN TO THE DEN and grabbed my revolver. I knew he had a plan—in case he had to escape. Every step would have been thought through a hundred times. He lived in his fantasies, not in the real world.

  I thought that he would probably leave our house. Escape, so he could fight again. Was I beginning to think like him? I thought that I was. Scary.

  The front door was wide open. I was on track. So far. Blood was smeared all over the carpet. Had he left a trail for me?

  Where would Gary Soneji/Murphy go if something went wrong at our house? He would always have a backup plan. Where was the perfect place? The completely unexpected move? I was finding it hard to think with blood dripping from my side and left shoulder.

  I reeled outside and into the early morning darkness and biting cold. Our street was as silent as it ever got. It was 4 A.M. I had only one idea where he might have gone.

  I wondered if he thought I’d try to follow him. Was he already expecting me? Was Soneji/Murphy still two jumps ahead of me again? So far, he always had been. I had to get ahead of him—just this once.

  The Metro underground ran a block from our house on 5th Street. The tunnel was still being built, but a few neighborhood kids went down there to walk the four blocks over to Capitol Hill… underground.

  I hobbled, and half ran, to the subway entrance. I was hurting, but I didn’t care. He’d come inside my house. He’d gone after my children.

  I went downstairs into the tunnel. I drew my revolver from the shoulder holster I’d slung over my shirt.

  Every step I took put a ragged stitch in my side. Painfully, I began to walk the length of the tunnel in a low shooter’s crouch.

  He could be watching me. Had he expected me to come here? I walked forward in the tunnel. It could be a trap. There were plenty of places for him to hide.

  I made it all the way to the end. There was no sign of blood, anywhere. Soneji/Murphy wasn’t in the underground. He’d escaped some other way. He’d gotten away again.

  As the adrenaline rush slowed, I felt weak and weary and disoriented. I climbed the stone stairs out of the underground.

  Night people were coming and going from the Metro paper store and from Fox’s all-night diner. I must have been a sorry sight. Blood was spattered all over me. No one stopped, though. Not a single person. They had all seen too much of this ghoulish stuff in the nation’s capital.

  I finally stepped in front of a truck driver dropping off a bundle of Washington Posts. I told him I was a police officer. I was feeling a little high with the loss of blood. Slightly giddy now.

  “I didn’t do nothin’ wrong,” he said to me.

  “You didn’t shoot me, motherfucker?”

  “No, sir. What’re you, crazy? You really a cop?”

  I made him take me home in his paper delivery truck. For the whole six-block ride, the man swore he’d sue the city.

  “Sue Mayor Monroe,” I told him. “Sue Monroe’s ass bad.”

  “You really a cop?” he asked me again. “You ain’t a cop.”

  “Yeah, I’m a cop.”

  Squad cars and EMS ambulances were already gathered at my house. This was my recurring nightmare—this very scene. Never before had the police and medics actually come to my house.

  Sampson was already there. He had a black leather jacket over a ratty old Baltimore Orioles sweatshirt. He wore a cap from the Hoodoo Gurus tour.

  He looked at me as if I were crazy. Crimson and blue emergency lights twirled behind him. “Wuz up? You don’t look so good. You all right, man?”

  “Been stabbed twice with a hunting knife. Not as bad as the time we got shot over in Garfield.”

  “Uh huh. Must look worse than it is. I want you to lie down here on the lawn. Lie down now, Alex.”

  I nodded, and walked away from Sampson. I had to finish this. Somehow, it had to be over with.

  The EMS people were trying to get me down on the lawn. Our tiny lawn. Or get me on their stretcher.

  I had another idea. The front door had been left wide open. He’d left the door to the house open. Why had he done that?

  “Be right with you,” I said to the medics as walked past them. “Hold that stretcher, though.”

  People were yelling at me, but I pushed forward, anyway.

  I moved silently and purposefully through the living room and into the kitchen. I opened the door that’s catty-cornered to our back door, and hurried downstairs.

  I didn’t see anything in the basement. No movement. Nothing out of order. The cellar was my last good idea.

  I walked over to a bin near the furnace where Nana dumps all the dirty laundry for the next washload. It’s the farthest corner of the basement from the stairs. No Soneji/Murphy in the dark basement.

  Sampson came running down the cellar stairs. “He’s not here! Someone saw him downtown. He’s down around Dupont Circle.”

  “He wants to make one more big play,” I muttered. “Son-of-a-bitch.” Son of Lindbergh.

  Sampson didn’t try to stop me from going with him. He could see in my eyes that he couldn’t, anyway. The two of us hurried to his car. I figured I was all right. I’d drop if I wasn’t.

  A young punk from the neighborhood looked at the sticky blood down the front of my shirt. “You dying, Cross? That be good.” He gave me my eulogy.

  It took us ten minutes or so to get down to Dupont Circle. Police squad cars were parked everywhere—flashing eerie red and blue in the dawn’s earliest light.

  It was late in the night shift for most of these boys. Nobody needed a madman on the loose in downtown Washington.

  One more big play.

  I Want to Be Somebody.

  During the next hour or so nothing happened—except that it got light out. Pedestrians began to appear around the circle. The traffic thickened as Washington opened up for business.

  The early risers were curious and stopped to ask the police questions. None of us would tell them anything, except to “please keep moving along. Just keep walking, please. There’s nothing to see.” Thank God.

  An EMS doctor treated my wounds. There was more blood than actual damage. He wanted me to go straight to the hospital, of course. That could wait. One more big play. Dupont Circle? Downtown Washington, D.C.? Gary Soneji/Murphy loved to play in the capital.

  I told the EMS doc to back off, and he did. I hit him up for a couple of Percodan. They did the trick for the moment.

  Sampson stood by my side, sucking on a cigarette. “You’re gonna just fall over,” he said to me. “You’ll just collapse. Like some big African elephant had a sudden heart attack.”

  I was savoring my Percodan buzz. “Wasn’t a sudden heart attack,” I said to him. “Big African elephant got knifed a couple of times. Wasn’t an elephant, either. It was an African antelope. Graceful, beautiful, powerful beast.”

  I eventually started to walk back toward Sampson’s car.

  “You got an idea?” he called after me. “Alex?”

  “Yeah. Let’s ride, no good standing around here at Dupont Circle. He’s not going to start shooting up rush-hour traffic.”

  “You sure about that, Alex?”

  “I’m sure about it.”

  We rode around downtown Washington until just before eight. It was getting hopeless. I was starting to get real sleepy in the car.

  This big African antelope was about ready to fall over. Beads of sweat slipped across my eyebrows, dripping down my nose. I was trying to think like Gary Soneji/Murphy. Was he downtown now? Or had he already escaped from Washington?

  A call came over the car radio at 7:58.

  “Suspect spotted on Pennsylvania Avenue, near Lafayette Park. Suspect has an automatic weapon in his possession. Suspect is approaching the White House. All cars move in!”

  One more big play. At least I finally had him figured out a little. He was less than two blocks from 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue when they’d found him. That was two blocks from the White House.

  I Want to Be Somebody.

  They had him pinned down between a shoe-repair shop and a brownstone building full of law offices. He was using a parked Jeep Cherokee for cover.

  There was another complication. He had hostages. He’d taken two young kids who had been on their way to school early that morning. The children looked to be eleven or twelve, about the same age Gary had been when his stepmother started locking him up. There was a boy and a girl. Shades of Maggie Rose and Michael Goldberg, almost two years before.

  “I’m Divisional Chief Cross,” I said and got through the police barricades that were already set up across Pennsylvania Avenue.

  The White House was clearly visible down the street. I wondered if the president was watching us on TV. At least one CNN news truck was already on the scene.

  A couple of news-station helicopters moved in overhead. This was restricted air space near the White House, so they couldn’t get too close. Somebody said Mayor Monroe was on his way. Gary had bigger prey in mind. He had demanded to see the president. Otherwise, he’d kill the two children.

  Traffic on Pennsylvania Avenue and the intersecting streets was already backed up as far as I could see. Several drivers and other passengers were deserting their vehicles, leaving them on the street. Scores of them stayed to watch the spectacle, though. Millions now watched on television.

  “You think he’s heading for the White House?” Sampson asked.

  “I know a few states he’d probably carry,” I said.

  I talked to the police SWAT team leader behind the barricades. I told him I thought Gary Soneji/Murphy was ready to go down in flames. He offered to light the match.

  A negotiator was already at the scene. He was more than willing to hand over the honor to me. I was finally going to negotiate a settlement with Soneji/Murphy.

  “We get the chance”—Sampson grabbed me and spoke very directly—“we’re going to pop him. Nothing tricky, Alex.”

  “Tell that to him,” I said to Sampson. “But if you get the chance, hit him. Do him.”

  I wiped my face several times on my sleeve. I was sweating bullets. I was also nauseated and dizzy. I had an electric bullhorn and I flicked the power on.

  The power was in my hands. I want to be somebody, too. Was that true? Was that what it had finally come to?

  “This is Alex Cross,” I called out. A few wiseguys in the crowd cheered. Mostly, it got very quiet on the downtown D.C. street.

  A burst of wild gunfire suddenly erupted across the street. Loud noise. Car windows blew out all over Pennsylvania Avenue. He did an amazing amount of damage in just a few seconds. Nobody was hurt that I could see. The two children were unharmed. Hi back at ya, Gary.

  Then a voice came from across the street. Gary’s voice.

  He was shouting at me. It was just the two of us. Was that what he wanted? His own High Noon in the middle of the capital. Live national TV coverage.

  “Let me see you, Dr. Cross. Come on out, Alex. Show your pretty face to everybody.”

  “Why should I?’’ I spoke over the bullhorn to Soneji.

  “Don’t even think about it,” Sampson whispered from behind me. “You do, I’ll shoot you myself.”

  There was another explosion of gunfire from across the avenue. This one went on even longer than the first burst. Washington was starting to look like downtown Beirut. Cameras whirred and clicked everywhere.

  I stood up suddenly and came out from behind a police sedan. Not too far, just enough to get killed. Some more assholes at the scene cheered me on.

  “The TV stations are here, Gary,” I shouted. “They’re filming this now. They’re filming me as I stand here. I’m gonna wind up as the big star. Slow start, but a hell of a finish for me.”

  Soneji/Murphy started to laugh. His laughter went on for a while. Was he manic? Depressive?

  “You finally got me figured out?” he shouted at me. “Have you? Do you know who I am now? Do you know what I want?”

  “I doubt it. I know that you’re hurt. I know you think you’re dying. Otherwise”—I stopped to make this sound as dramatic as it would be to him—“otherwise, you wouldn’t have let us catch you again.’’

  Directly across Pennsylvania Avenue, Soneji/Murphy stood up behind the bright red Jeep. Both children lay on the sidewalk behind him. Neither seemed to be hurt so far.

  Gary took a theatrical bow in my direction. He looked like the all-American boy, just as he did in court.

  I was walking toward him now. Getting closer and closer.

  “Nice touch,” he called to me. “Well said. But I’m the star.” He suddenly shifted his gun in my direction.

  A shot rang out behind me.

  Gary Soneji/Murphy flew back in the direction of the shoe-repair shop. He landed on the sidewalk, then rolled over. Both young hostages started to scream. They scrambled up and ran away.

  I sprinted as fast as I could across Pennsylvania Avenue. “Don’t shoot!” I yelled. “Hold your fire.”

  I turned and saw Sampson standing there. His service revolver was still aimed at Gary Murphy. He turned the revolver up toward the sky. He kept his eyes on me. He’d finished it for both of us.

  Gary lay in a crumpled heap on the sidewalk. A stream of bright red blood flowed steadily from his head and mouth. He wasn’t moving. The automatic rifle was still clutched in his hand.

  I reached out and took the gun away first. I heard cameras clicking away behind us. I touched his shoulder. “Gary?”

  Very careful
ly, I turned the body over. There was still no movement. No sign of life. He looked like the all-American boy again. He’d come to this party as himself, as Gary Murphy.

  As I looked down, Gary’s eyes suddenly opened and rolled back. He looked straight up at me. His lips parted slowly.

  “Help me,’’ he finally whispered in a soft, choked voice. “Help me, Dr. Cross. Please help me.”

  I knelt down close beside him. “Who are you?” I asked him.

  “I’m Gary…. Gary Murphy,” he said.




  WHEN THE FATEFUL DAY finally arrived, I couldn’t sleep, not even a couple of hours. I couldn’t play the piano out on our porch. I didn’t want to see anyone to talk about what was going to happen in just a few hours. I slipped in and kissed Damon and Jannie while they slept. Then I left he house around two in the morning.

  I arrived at Lorton Federal Prison at three. The marchers were back, carrying their homemade placards under a moonlit sky. Some were singing protest songs from the 1960s. Many prayed. There were several nuns, priests, ministers. A majority of the protesters were women, I noticed.

  The execution chamber at Lorton was a small, ordinary room with three windows. One window was reserved for the press. One was for official observers from the state. The third window was reserved for friends and family of the prisoner.

  There were dark blue curtains over each of the three windows. At three-thirty in the morning, a prison official opened them one by one. The prisoner was finally revealed, strapped down on a hospital gurney. The gurney had a makeshift extension panel for the left arm.

  Jezzie had been staring up at the room’s ceiling, but she became alert and seemed to tense as two technicians walked to the gurney. One of them carried the needle on a stainless-steel hospital tray. The insertion of the catheter needle was the only physical pain involved if the execution by lethal injection was done correctly.

  I had been coming out to Lorton to visit both Jezzie and Gary Murphy for several months. I was on leave from the D.C. police force, and although I was writing this book, I had plenty of time for visits.

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