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Table of Contents
A Preview of Pop Goes the Weasel
A Preview of Cross Justice
About the Author
Books by James Patterson
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CATCH A SPIDER
THE CROSS house was twenty paces away and the proximity and sight of it made Gary Soneji's skin prickle. It was Victorian-style, white shingled, and extremely well kept. As Soneji stared across Fifth Street, he slowly bared his teeth in a sneer that could have passed for a smile. This was perfect. He had come here to murder Alex Cross and his family.
His eyes moved slowly from window to window, taking in everything from the crisp, white lace curtains to Cross's old piano on the sunporch, to a Batman and Robin kite stuck in the rain gutter on the roof. Damon's kite, he thought.
On two occasions he caught sight of Cross's elderly grandmother as she shuffled past one of the downstairs windows. Nana Mama's long, purposeless life would soon be at an end. That made him feel so much better. Enjoy every moment—stop and smell the roses, Soneji reminded himself. Taste the roses, eat Alex Cross's roses—flowers, stems, and thorns.
He finally moved across Fifth Street, being careful to stay in the shadows. Then he disappeared into the thick yews and forsythia bushes that ran like sentries alongside the front of the house.
He carefully made his way to a whitewashed cellar door, which was to one side of the porch, just off the kitchen. It had a Master padlock, but he had the door open in seconds.
He was inside the Cross house!
He was in the cellar: The cellar was a clue for those who collected them. The cellar was worth a thousand words. A thousand forensic pictures, too.
It was important to everything that would happen in the very near future. The Cross murders!
There were no large windows, but Soneji decided not to take any chances by turning on the lights. He used a Maglite flashlight. Just to look around, to learn a few more things about Cross and his family, to fuel his hatred, if that was possible.
The cellar was cleanly swept, as he had expected it would be. Cross's tools were haphazardly arranged on a pegged Masonite board. A stained Georgetown ball cap was hung on a hook. Soneji put it on his own head. He couldn't resist.
He ran his hands over folded laundry laid out on a long wooden table. He felt close to the doomed family now. He despised them more than ever. He felt around the hammocks of the old woman's bra. He touched the boy's small Jockey underwear. He felt like a total creep, and he loved it.
Soneji picked up a small red reindeer sweater. It would fit Cross's little girl, Jannie. He held it to his face and tried to smell the girl. He anticipated Jannie's murder and only wished that Cross would get to see it, too.
He saw a pair of Everlast gloves and black Pony shoes tied around a hook next to a weathered old punching bag. They belonged to Cross's son, Damon, who must be nine years old now. Gary Soneji thought he would punch out the boy's heart.
Finally, he turned off the flashlight and sat all alone in the dark. Once upon a time, he had been a famous kidnapper and murderer. It was going to happen again. He was coming back with a vengeance that would blow everybody's mind.
He folded his hands in his lap and sighed. He had spun his web perfectly.
Alex Cross would soon be dead, and so would everyone he loved.
THE KILLER who was currently terrorizing Europe was named Mr. Smith, no first name. It was given to him by the Boston press, and then the police had obligingly picked it up all over the world. He accepted the name, as children accept the name given by their parents, no matter how gross or disturbing or pedestrian the name might be.
Mr. Smith—so be it.
Actually, he had a thing about names. He was obsessive about them. The names of his victims were burned into his mind and also into his heart.
First and foremost, there was Isabella Calais. Then came Stephanie Michaela Apt, Ursula Davies, Robert Michael Neel, and so many others.
He could recite the complete names backward and forward, as if they had been memorized for a history quiz or a bizarre round of Trivial Pursuit. That was the ticket—this case was trivial pursuit, wasn't it?
So far, no one seemed to understand, no one got it. Not the fabled FBI. Not the storied Interpol, not Scotland Yard or any of the local police forces in the cities where he had committed murders.
No one understood the secret pattern of the victims, starting with Isabella Calais in Cambridge, Massachusetts, March 22, 1993, and continuing today in London.
The victim of the moment was Drew Cabot. He was a chief inspector—of all the hopelessly inane things to do with your life. He was "hot" in London, having recently apprehended an IRA killer. His murder would electrify the town, drive everyone mad. Civilized and sophisticated London loved a gory murder as well as the next burg.
This afternoon Mr. Smith was operating in the tony, fashionable Knightsbridge section. He was there to study the human race—at least that was the way the newspapers described it. The press in London and across Europe also called him by another name—Alien. The prevailing theory was that Mr. Smith was an extraterrestrial. No human could do the things that he did. Or so they said.
Mr. Smith had to bend low to talk into Drew Cabot's ear, to be more intimate with his prey. He played music while he worked—all kinds of music. Today's selection was the overture to Don Giovanni. Opera buffa felt right to him.
Opera felt right for this live autopsy.
"Ten minutes or so after your death," Mr. Smith said, "flies will already have picked up the scent of gas accompanying the decomposition of your tissue. Green flies will lay the tiniest eggs within the orifices of your body. Ironically, the language reminds me of Dr. Seuss—'green flies and ham.' What could that mean? I don't know. It's a curious association, though."
Drew Cabot had lost a lot of blood, but he wasn't giving up. He was a tall, rugged man with silver-blond hair. A never-say-never sort of chap. The inspector shook his head back and forth until Smith finally removed his gag.
"What it is, Drew?" he asked. "Speak."
"I have a wife and two children. Why are you doing this to me? Why me?" he whispered.
"Oh, let's say because you're Drew. Keep it simple and unsentimental. You, Drew, are a piece of the puzzle."
He tugged the inspector's gag back into place. No more chitchat from Drew.
Mr. Smith continued with his observations as he made his next surgical cuts and Don Giovanni played on.
"Near the time of death, breathing will become strained, intermittent. It's exactly what you're feeling now, as if each breath could be your last. Cessation will occur within two or three minutes," whispered Mr. Smith, whispered the dreaded Alien. "Your life will end. May I be the first to congratulate you. I sincerely mean that, Drew. Believe it or not, I envy you. I wish I were Drew."
TRAIN STATION MURDERS
"I AM the great Cornholio! Are you challenging me? I am Cornholio!" the kids chorused and giggled. Beavis and Butt-head strike again—in my neighborhood.
I bit my lip and decided to let it go. Why fight it? Why fan the fires of preadolescence?
Damon, Jannie, and I were crowded into the front seat of my old black Porsche. We needed to buy a new car, but none of us wanted to part with the Porsche. We were schooled in tradition, in the classics. We loved the old car, which we had named "The Sardine Can" and "Old Paintless."
Actually, I was preoccupied at twenty to eight in the morning. Not a good way to start the day.
The night before, a thirteen-year-old girl from Ballou High School had been found in the Anacostia River. She had been shot, and then drowned. The gunshot had been in her mouth. What the coroners call a "hole in one."
A bizarre statistic was creating havoc with my stomach and central nervous system. There were now more than a hundred unsolved murders of young, inner-city women committed in just the past three years. No one had called for a major investigation. No one in power seemed to care about dead black and Hispanic girls.
As we drove up in front of the Sojourner Truth School, I saw Christine Johnson welcoming kids and their parents as they arrived, reminding everyone that this was a community with good, caring people. She was certainly one of them.
I remembered the very first time we met. It was the previous fall and the circumstances couldn't have been any worse for either of us.
We had been thrown together—smashed together someone said to me once—at the homicide scene of a sweet baby girl named Shanelle Green. Christine was the principal of the school that Shanelle attended, and where I was now delivering my own kids. Jannie was new to the Truth School this semester. Damon was a grizzled veteran, a fourth grader.
"What are you mischief makers gawking at?" I turned to the kids, who were looking back and forth from my face to Christine's as if they were watching a championship tennis match.
"We're gawking at you, Daddy, and you're gawking at Christine!" Jannie said and laughed like the wicked child-witch of the North that she can be sometimes.
"She's Mrs. Johnson to you," I said as I gave Jannie my best squinting evil eye.
Jannie shrugged off my baleful look and frowned at me as only she can. "I know that, Daddy. She's the principal of my school. I know exactly who she is."
My daughter already understood many of life's important connections and mysteries. I was hoping that maybe someday she would explain them to me.
"Damon, do you have a point of view we should hear?" I asked. "Anything you'd like to add? Care to share some good fellowship and wit with us this morning?"
My son shook his head no, but he was smiling, too. He liked Christine Johnson just fine. Everybody did. Even Nana Mama approved, which is unheard of, and actually worried me some. Nana and I never seemed to agree about anything, and it's getting worse with age.
The kids were already climbing out of the car, and Jannie gave me a kiss good-bye. Christine waved and walked over.
"What a fine, upstanding father you are," she said. Her brown eyes twinkled. "You're going to make some lady in the neighborhood very happy one of these days. Very good with children, reasonably handsome, driving a classy sports car. My, my, my."
"My, my, back at you," I said. To top everything off, it was a beautiful morning in the early June. Shimmering blue skies, temperature in the low seventies, the air crisp and relatively clean. Christine was wearing a soft beige suit with a blue shirt, and beige flat-heeled shoes. Be still my heart.
A smile slid across my face. There was no way to stop it, to hold it back, and besides I didn't want to. It fit me fine with the fine day I was starting to have.
"I hope you're not teaching my kids that kind of cynicism and irony inside that fancy school of yours."
"Of course I am, and so are all my teachers. We speak Educanto with the best of them. We're trained in cynicism, and we're all experts in irony. More important, we're excellent skeptics. I have to get inside now, so we don't miss a precious moment of indoctrination time."
"It's too late for Damon and Jannie. I've already programmed them. A child is fed with milk and praise. They have the sunniest dispositions in the neighborhood, probably in all of Southeast, maybe in the entire city of Washington."
"Oh we've noticed that, and we accept the challenge. Got to run. Young minds to shape and change."
"I'll see you tonight?" I said as Christine was about to turn away and head toward the Sojourner Truth School.
"Handsome as sin, driving a nice Porsche, of course you'll see me tonight," she said. Then she turned away and headed toward the school.
We were about to have our first "official" date that night. Her husband, George, had died the previous winter, and now Christine felt she was ready to have dinner with me. I hadn't pushed her in any way, but I couldn't wait. Half a dozen years after the death of my wife, Maria, I felt as if I were coming out of a deep rut, maybe even a clinical depression. Life was looking as good as it had in a long, long time.
But as Nana Mama has often cautioned, "Don't mistake the edge of a rut for the horizon."
ALEX CROSS is a dead man. Failure isn't an option.
Gary Soneji squinted through a telescopic sight he'd removed from a Browning automatic rifle. The scope was a rare beauty. He watched the oh-so-touching affair of the heart. He saw Alex Cross drop off his two brats and then chat with his pretty lady friend in front of the Sojourner Truth School.
Think the unthinkable, he prodded himself.
Soneji ground his front teeth as he scrunched low in the front seat of a black Jeep Cherokee. He watched Damon and Janelle scamper into the schoolyard, where they greeted their playmates with high and low fives. Years before he'd almost become famous for kidnapping two school brats right here in Washington. Those were the days, my friend! Those were the days.
For a while he'd been the dark star of television and newspapers all over the country. Now it was going to happen again. He was sure that it was. After all, it was only fair that he be recognized as the best.
He let the aiming post of the rifle sight gently come to rest on Christine Johnson's forehead. There, there, isn't that nice.
She had very expressive brown eyes and a wide smile that seemed genuine from this distance. She was tall, attractive, and had a commanding presence. The school principal. A few loose hairs lay curled on her cheek. It was easy to see what Cross saw in her.
What a handsome couple they made, and what a tragedy this was going to be, what a damn shame. Even with all the wear and tear, Cross still looked good, impressive, a little like Muhammad Ali in his prime. His smile was dazzling.
As Christine Johnson walked away and headed toward the red-brick school building, Alex Cross suddenly glanced in the direction of Soneji's Jeep.
The tall detective seemed to be looking right into the driver's side of the windshield. Right into Soneji's eyes.
That was okay. Nothing to worry about, nothing to fear. He knew what he was doing. He wasn't taking any risks. Not here, not yet.
It was all set to start in a couple of minutes, but in his mind it had already happened. It had happened a hundred times. He knew every single move from this point until the end.
Gary Soneji started the Jeep and headed toward Union Station. The scene of the crime-to-be, the scene of his masterpiece theater.
"Think the unthinkable," he muttered under his breath, "then do the unthinkable."
AFTER THE last bell had rung and most of the kids were safe and sound in their classrooms, Christine Johnson took a slow walk down the long deserted corridors of the Sojourner Truth School. She did this almost every morning, and considered it one of her special treats to herself. You had to have treats sometimes, and this beat a trip to Starbucks for café latte.
The hallways were empty and pleasantly quiet—and always sparkling clean, as she felt a good school ought to be.
There had been a time when she and a few of her teachers had actually mopped the floors themselves, but now Mr. Gomez and a porter named Lonnie Walker did it two nights a week, every week. Once you got good people thinking in the right way, it was amazing how many of them agreed a school should be clean and safe, and were willing to help. Once people believed the right thing could actually happen, it often did.
The corridor walls were covered with lively, colorful artwork by the kids, and everybody loved the hope and energy it produced. Christine glanced at the drawings and posters every morning, and it was always something different, another child's perspective that caught her eye and delighted her inner person.
This particular morning, she paused to look at a simple yet dazzling crayon drawing of a little girl holding hands with her mommy and daddy in front of a new house. They all had round faces and happy smiles and a nice sense of purpose. She checked out a few illustrated stories: "Our Community," "Nigeria," "Whaling."
But she was out here walking for a different reason today. She was thinking about her husband, George, and how he died, and why. She wished she could bring him back and talk to him now. She wanted to hold George at least one more time. Oh God, she needed to talk to him.
She wandered to the far end of the hall to Room 111, which was light yellow and called Buttercup. The kids had named the rooms themselves, and the names changed every year in the fall. It was their school, after all.
Christine slowly and quietly opened the door a crack. She saw Bobbie Shaw, the second-grade teacher, scrubbing notes on the blackboard. Then she noticed row after row of mostly attentive faces, and among them Jannie Cross.
She found herself smiling as she watched Jannie, who happened to be talking to Ms. Shaw. Jannie Cross was so animated and bright, and she had such a sweet perspective on the world. She was a lot like her father. Smart, sensitive, handsome as sin.
Christine eventually walked on. Preoccupied, she found herself climbing the concrete stairs to the second floor. Even the walls of the stairwells were decorated with projects and brightly colored artwork, which was part of the reason most of the kids believed that this was "their school." Once you understood something was "yours," you protected it, felt a part of it. It was a simple enough idea, but one that the government in Washington seemed not to get.
She felt a little silly, but she checked on Damon, too.
Of all the boys and girls at the Truth School, Damon was probably her favorite. He had been even before she met Alex. It wasn't just that Damon was bright, and verbal, and could be very charming—Damon was also a really good person. He showed it time and again with the other kids, with his teachers, and even when his little sister entered the school this past semester. He'd treated her like his best friend in the world—and maybe he already understood that she was.
Christine finally headed back to her office, where the usual ten-to-twelve-hour day awaited her. She was thinking about Alex now, and she supposed that was really why she had gone and looked in on his kids.
She was thinking that she wasn't looking forward to their dinner date tonight. She was afraid of tonight, a little panicky, and she thought she knew why.
AT A little before eight in the morning, Gary Soneji strolled into Union Station, as if he owned the place. He felt tremendously good. His step quickened and his spirits seemed to rise to the height of the soaring train-station ceilings.
He knew everything there was to know about the famous train gateway for the capital. He had long admired the neoclassical facade that recalled the famed Baths of Caracalla in ancient Rome. He had studied the station's architecture for hours as a young boy. He had even visited the Great Train Store, which sold exquisite model trains and other railroad-themed souvenirs.
He could hear and feel the trains rattling down below. The marble floors actually shook as powerful Amtrak trains departed and arrived, mostly on schedule, too. The glass doors to the outside world rumbled, and he could hear the panes clink against their frame.
He loved this place, everything about it. It was truly magical. The key words for today were train and cellar, and only he understood why.
Information was power, and he had it all.
Gary Soneji thought that he might be dead within the next hour, but the idea, the image, didn't trouble him. Whatever happened was meant to, and besides, he definitely wanted to go out with a bang, not a cowardly whimper. And why the hell not? He had plans for a long and exciting career after his death.
Gary Soneji was wearing a lightweight black jumpsuit with a red Nike logo. He carried three bulky bags. He figured that he looked like just another Yuppified traveler at the crowded train station. He appeared to be overweight and his hair was gray, for the time being. He was actually five foot ten, but the lifts in his shoes got him up to six one today. He still had a trace of his former good looks. If somebody had wanted to guess his occupation, they might say teacher.
The cheap irony wasn't lost on him. He'd been a teacher once, one of the worst ever. He had been Mr. Soneji—the Spider Man. He had kidnapped two of his own students.
He had already purchased his ticket for the Metroliner, but he didn't head for his train just yet.
Instead, Gary Soneji crossed the main lobby, hurrying away from the waiting room. He took a stairway next to the Center Café and climbed to the balcony on the second floor, which looked out on the lobby, about twenty feet below.
He gazed down and watched the lonely people streaming across the cavernous lobby. Most of these assholes had no idea how undeservedly lucky they were this particular morning. They would be safely on board their little commuter trains by the time the "light and sound" show began in just a few minutes.
What a beautiful, beautiful place this is, Soneji thought. How many times he'd dreamed about this scene.
This very scene at Union Station!
- On Sale
- Feb 1, 2003
- Page Count
- 432 pages
- Little, Brown and Company