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Discover the first three books in #1 bestselling author James Patterson’s #1 bestselling series.
Along Came a Spider introduced Alex Cross, a homicide detective with a PhD in psychology. A murderous serial kidnapper determined to commit the crime of the century becomes every parent’s bad dream — and Cross’s nightmare.
In Kiss the Girls, Cross faces two clever pattern killers who are collaborating, cooperating, competing — and they’re working coast to coast.
In Jack & Jill, a rhymed crime-scene not signed “Jack and Jill” puts Cross on notice that no citizen in the nation’s capital — from schoolchildren to those who walk the corridors of power — will be safe until he can decode the scheme wrought by a pair of fiendish assassins.
MAGGIE ROSE AND SHRIMPIE GOLDBERG (1992)
EARLY ON THE MORNING of December 21, 1992, I was the picture of contentment on the sun porch of our house on 5th Street in Washington, D.C. The small, narrow room was cluttered with mildewing winter coats, work boots, and wounded children's toys. I couldn't have cared less. This was home.
I was playing Gershwin on our slightly out-of-tune, formerly grand piano. It was just past 5 A.M., and cold as a meat locker on the porch. I was prepared to sacrifice a little for "An American in Paris."
The phone jangled in the kitchen. Maybe I'd won the D.C., or Virginia, or Maryland lottery and they'd forgotten to call the night before. I play all three games of misfortune regularly.
"Nana? Can you get that?" I called from the porch.
"It's for you. You might as well get it yourself," my testy grandmother called back. "No sense me gettin' up, too. No sense means nonsense in my dictionary."
That's not exactly what was said, but it went something like that. It always does.
I hobbled into the kitchen, sidestepping more toys on morning-stiff legs. I was thirty-eight at the time. As the saying goes, if I'd known I was going to live that long, I would have taken better care of myself.
The call turned out to be from my partner in crime, John Sampson. Sampson knew I'd be up. Sampson knows me better than my own kids.
"Mornin', brown sugar. You up, aren't you?" he said. No other I.D. was necessary. Sampson and I have been best friends since we were nine years old and took up shoplifting at Park's Corner Variety store near the projects. At the time, we had no idea that old Park would have shot us dead over a pilfered pack of Chesterfields. Nana Mama would have done even worse to us if she'd known about our crime spree.
"If I wasn't up, I am now," I said into the phone receiver. "Tell me something good."
"There's been another murder. Looks like our boy again," Sampson said. "They're waitin' on us. Half the free world's there already."
"It's too early in the morning to see the meat wagon," I muttered. I could feel my stomach rolling. This wasn't the way I wanted the day to start. "Shit. Fuck me."
Nana Mama looked up from her steaming tea and runny eggs. She shot me one of her sanctimonious, lady-of-the-house looks. She was already dressed for school, where she still does volunteer work at seventy-nine. Sampson continued to give me gory details about the day's first homicides.
"Watch your language, Alex," Nana said. "Please watch your language so long as you're planning to live in this house."
"I'll be there in about ten minutes," I told Sampson. "I own this house," I said to Nana.
She groaned as if she were hearing that terrible news for the first time.
"There's been another bad murder over in Langley Terrace. It looks like a thrill killer. I'm afraid that it is," I told her.
"That's too bad," Nana Mama said to me. Her soft brown eyes grabbed mine and held. Her white hair looked like one of the doilies she puts on all our living-room chairs. "That's such a bad part of what the politicians have let become a deplorable city. Sometimes I think we ought to move out of Washington, Alex."
"Sometimes I think the same thing," I said, "but we'll probably tough it out."
"Yes, black people always do. We persevere. We always suffer in silence."
"Not always in silence," I said to her.
I had already decided to wear my old Harris Tweed jacket. It was a murder day, and that meant I'd be seeing white people. Over the sport coat, I put on my Georgetown warm-up jacket. It goes better with the neighborhood.
On the bureau, by the bed, was a picture of Maria Cross. Three years before, my wife had been murdered in a drive-by shooting. That murder, like the majority of murders in Southeast, had never been solved.
I kissed my grandmother on the way out the kitchen door. We've done that since I was eight years old. We also say good-bye, just in case we never see each other again. It's been like that for almost thirty years, ever since Nana Mama first took me in and decided she could make something of me.
She made a homicide detective, with a doctorate in psychology, who works and lives in the ghettos of Washington, D.C.
I AM OFFICIALLY a Deputy Chief of Detectives, which, in the words of Shakespeare and Mr. Faulkner is a lot of sound and fury, signifying nada. The title should make me the number-six or -seven person in the Washington Police Department. It doesn't. People wait for my appearance at crime scenes in D.C., though.
A trio of D.C. Metro blue-and-whites were parked helter-skelter in front of 41-15 Benning Road. A crime-lab van with blackened windows had arrived. So had an EMS ambulance. MORTUARY was cheerfully stenciled on the door.
There were a couple of fire engines at the murder house. The neighborhood's ambulance-chasers, mostly eye-fucking males, were hanging around. Older women with winter coats thrown over their pajamas and nightgowns, and pink and blue curlers in their hair, were up on their porches shivering in the cold.
The row house was dilapidated clapboard, painted a gaudy Caribbean blue. An old Chevette with a broken, taped-up side window looked as if it had been abandoned in the driveway.
"Fuck this. Let's go back to bed," Sampson said. "I just remembered what this is going to be like. I hate this job lately."
"I love my work, love Homicide," I said with a sneer. "See that? There's the M.E. already in his plastic suit. And there are the crime-lab boys. And who's this coming our way now?"
A white sergeant in a puffy blue-black parka with a fur collar came waddling up to Sampson and me as we approached the house. Both his hands were jammed in his pockets for warmth.
"Sampson? Uh, Detective Cross?" The sergeant cracked his lower jaw the way some people do when they're trying to clear their ears in airplanes. He knew exactly who we were. He knew we were S.I.T. He was busting our chops.
"Wuz up, man?" Sampson doesn't like his chops being busted very much.
"Senior Detective Sampson" I answered the sergeant. "I'm Deputy Chief Cross."
The sergeant was a jelly-roll-belly Irish type, probably left over from the Civil War. His face looked like a wedding cake left out in the rain. He didn't seem to be buying my tweed jacket ensemble.
"Everybody's freezin' their toches off," he wheezed. "That's wuz up."
"You could probably lose a little of them toches," Sampson advised him. "Might give Jenny Craig a call."
"Fuck you," said the sergeant. It was nice to meet the white Eddie Murphy.
"Master of the riposte." Sampson grinned at me. "You hear what he said? Fuck you?"
Sampson and I are both physical. We work out at the gym attached to St. Anthony's—St. A's. Together, we weigh about five hundred pounds. We can intimidate, if we want to. Sometimes it's necessary in our line of work.
I'm only six three. John is six nine and growing. He always wears Wayfarer sunglasses. Sometimes he wears a raggy Kangol hat, or a yellow bandanna. Some people call him "John-John" because he's so big he could be two Johns.
We walked past the sergeant toward the murder house. Our elite task force team is supposed to be above this kind of confrontation. Sometimes we are.
A couple of uniforms had already been inside the house. A nervous neighbor had called the precinct around four-thirty. She thought she'd spotted a prowler. The woman had been up with the night-jitters. It comes with the neighborhood.
The two uniformed patrolmen found three bodies inside. When they called it in, they were instructed to wait for the Special Investigator Team. S.I.T. It's made up of eight black officers supposedly slated for better things in the department.
The outside door to the kitchen was ajar. I pushed it all the way open. The doors of every house have a unique sound when they open and close. This one whined like an old man.
It was pitch-black in the house. Eerie. The wind was sucked through the open door, and I could hear something rattling inside.
"We didn't turn on the lights, sir," one of the uniforms said from behind me. "You're Dr. Cross, right?"
I nodded. "Was the kitchen door open when you came?" I turned to the patrolman. He was white, baby-faced, growing a little mustache to compensate for it. He was probably twenty-three or twenty-four, frightened that morning. I couldn't blame him.
"Uh. No. No sign of forced entry. It was unlocked, sir."
The patrolman was very nervous. "It's a real bad mess in there, sir. It's a family."
One of the patrolmen switched on a powerful milled-aluminum flashlight and we all peered inside the kitchen.
There was a cheap Formica breakfast table with matching lime green vinyl chairs. A black Bart Simpson clock was on one wall. It was the kind you see in the front windows of all the People's drugstores. The smells of Lysol and burnt grease melded into something strange to the nose, though not entirely unpleasant. There were a lot worse smells in homicide cases.
Sampson and I hesitated, taking it all in the way the murderer might have just a few hours earlier.
"He was right here," I said. "He came in through the kitchen. He was here, where we're standing."
"Don't talk like that, Alex," Sampson said. "Sound like Jeane Dixon. Creep me out."
No matter how many times you do this kind of thing, it never gets easier. You don't want to have to go inside. You don't want to see any more horrible nightmares in your lifetime.
"They're upstairs," the cop with the mustache said. He filled us in on who the victims were. A family named Sanders. Two women and a small boy.
His partner, a short, well-built black man, hadn't said a word yet. His name was Butchie Dykes. He was a sensitive young cop I'd seen around the station.
The four of us entered the death house together. We each took a deep breath. Sampson patted my shoulder. He knew that child homicide had me shook.
The three bodies were upstairs in the front bedroom, just off the top of the stairs.
There was the mother, Jean "Poo" Sanders, thirty-two. Even in death, her face was haunting. She had big brown eyes, high cheekbones, full lips that had already turned purplish. Her mouth was stretched open in a scream.
Poo's daughter, Suzette Sanders, fourteen years on this earth. She was just a young girl but had been prettier than her mother. She wore a mauve ribbon in her braided hair and a tiny nose earring to prove she was older than her years. Suzette was gagged with dark blue panty hose.
A baby son, Mustaf Sanders, three years old, was lying faceup, and his little cheeks seemed stained with tears. He was wearing a "pajama bag" like my own kids wear.
Just as Nana Mama had said, it was a bad part of what somebody had let become a bad city. In this big bad country of ours. The mother and the daughter were bound to an imitation brass bedpost. Satin underwear, black and red mesh stockings, and flowery bed sheets had been used to tie them up.
I took out the pocket recorder I carry and began to put down my first observations. "Homicide cases H234914 through 916. A mother, teenage daughter, little boy. The women have been slashed with something extremely sharp. A straight razor, possibly.
"Their breasts have been cut off. The breasts are nowhere to be found. The pubic hair of the women has been shaved. There are multiple stab wounds, what the pathologists call 'patterns of rage.' There is a great deal of blood, fecal matter. I believe the two women, both the mother and daughter, were prostitutes. I've seen them around."
My voice was a low drone. I wondered if I'd be able to understand all the words later.
"The little boy's body seems to have been casually tossed aside. Mustaf Sanders has on hand-me-down pajamas that are covered with Care Bears. He is a tiny, incidental pile in the room." I couldn't help grieving as I looked down at the little boy, his sad, lifeless eyes staring up at me. Everything was very noisy inside my head. My heart ached. Poor little Mustaf, whoever you were.
"I don't believe he wanted to kill the boy," I said to Sampson. "He or she."
"Or it." Sampson shook his head. "I vote for it. It's a Thing, Alex. The same Thing that did Condon Terrace earlier this week."
SINCE SHE HAD BEEN THREE OR FOUR years old, Maggie Rose Dunne was always watched by people. At nine, she was used to special attention, to strangers gawking at her as if she was Maggie Scissorhands, or Girl Frankenstein.
That morning she was being watched, but she didn't know it. This one time, Maggie Rose would have cared. This one time, it mattered very much.
Maggie Rose was at Washington Day School in Georgetown, where she was trying to blend in with the other hundred and thirty students. At that moment, they were all singing enthusiastically at assembly.
Blending in wasn't easy for Maggie Rose, even though she desperately wanted to. She was the nine-year-old daughter of Katherine Rose, after all. Maggie couldn't walk past a mall video store without seeing a picture of her mother. Her mother's movies seemed to be on the tube about every other night. Her mom got nominated for Oscars more often than most actresses got mentioned in People magazine.
Because of all that stuff, Maggie Rose tried to disappear into the woodwork a lot. That morning she had on a beat-up Fido Dido sweatshirt with strategic holes front and rear. She'd picked out grungy, wrinkled Guess jeans. She wore old pink Reebok sneakers—her "trusty dusties"—and Fido socklets picked out from the bottom of her closet. She purposely hadn't washed her long blond hair before school.
Her mom's eyes had bugged when she'd spotted the getup. She said, "Quadruple yuk," but she let Maggie go to school that way anyway. Her mom was cool. She really understood the tough deal Maggie had to live with.
The kids in the crowded assembly, first- through sixth-grade classes, were singing "Fast Car" by Tracy Chapman. Before she played the folk/rock song on the auditorium's gleaming black Steinway, Ms. Kaminsky had tried to explain the message of it for everybody.
"This moving song, by a young black woman from Massachusetts, is about being dirt poor in the richest country in the world. It's about being black in the nineteen nineties."
The petite, rail-thin music and visual arts teacher was always so intense. She felt it was a good teacher's duty not only to inform, but to persuade, to mold the important young minds at the prestigious Day School.
The kids liked Ms. Kaminsky, so they tried to imagine the plight of the poor and disadvantaged. Since the tuition at Washington Day was twelve thousand dollars, it took some imagination on their part.
"You got a fast car," they sang along with Ms. K. and her piano.
"And I got a plan to get us out of here."
As Maggie sang "Fast Car," she really tried to imagine what it would be like to be poor like that. She'd seen enough poor people sleeping in the cold on Washington streets. If she concentrated, she could visualize terrible scenes around Georgetown and Dupont Circle. Especially the men with dirty rags who washed your windshield at every stoplight. Her mother always gave them a dollar, sometimes more. Some of the beggars recognized her mom and went apeman crazy. They smiled like their day had been made, and Katherine Rose always had something nice to say to them.
"You got a fast car," Maggie Rose sang out. She felt like letting her voice really get up there.
"But is it fast enough so we can fly away
"We gotta make a decision
"We leave tonight or live and die this way."
The song finished to loud applause and cheers from all the kids at assembly. Ms. Kaminsky took a queer little bow at her piano.
"Heavy duty," Michael Goldberg muttered. Michael was standing right next to Maggie. He was her best friend in Washington, where she'd moved less than a year ago, coming from L.A. with her parents.
Michael was being ironic, of course. As always. That was his East Coast way of dealing with people who weren't as smart as he was—which meant just about everybody in the free world.
Michael Goldberg was a genuine brainiac, Maggie knew. He was a reader of everything and anything; a gonzo collector; a doer; always funny if he liked you. He'd been a "blue baby," though, and he still wasn't big or very strong. That had gotten him the nickname "Shrimpie," which kind of brought Michael down off his brainiac pedestal.
Maggie and Michael rode to school together most mornings. That morning they'd come in a real Secret Service town car. Michael's father was the secretary of the treasury. As in the secretary of the treasury. Nobody was really just "normal" at Washington Day. Everybody was trying to blend in, one way or another.
As the students filed out of morning assembly, each of them was asked who was picking them up after school. Security was tremendously important at Washington Day.
"Mr. Devine—" Maggie started to tell the teacher-monitor posted at the door from the auditorium. His name was Mr. Guestier and he taught languages, which included French, Russian, and Chinese, at the school. He was nicknamed "Le Pric."
"And Jolly Chollie Chakely," Michael Goldberg finished for her. "Secret Service Detail Nineteen. Lincoln town car. License number SC-59. North exit, Pelham Hall. They're assigned to moi because the Colombian cartel has made death threats against my father. Au revoir, mon professeur."
It was noted in the school log for December 21. M. Goldberg and M.R. Dunne—Secret Service pickup. North exit, Pelham, at three.
"C'mon, Dweebo Dido." Michael Goldberg poked Maggie Rose sharply in her rib cage. "I got a fast car. Uh huh, uh huh. And I got a plan to get us out of here."
No wonder she liked him, Maggie thought. Who else would call her a dweebo? Who else but Shrimpie Goldberg?
As they walked out of the assembly hall, the two friends were being watched. Neither of them noticed anything wrong, anything out of the ordinary. They weren't supposed to. That was the whole idea. It was the master plan.
AT NINE O'CLOCK that morning, Ms. Vivian Kim decided to re-create Watergate in her Washington Day School classroom. She would never forget it.
Vivian Kim was smart, pretty, and a stimulating American history teacher. Her class was one of the students' favorites. Twice a week Ms. Kim acted out a history skit. Sometimes she let the children prepare one. They got to be really good at it, and she could honestly say her class was never boring.
On this particular morning, Vivian Kim had chosen Watergate. In her third-grade class were Maggie Rose Dunne and Michael Goldberg. The classroom was being watched.
Vivian Kim alternately played General Haig, H. R. Haldeman, Henry Kissinger, G. Gordon Liddy, President Nixon, John and Martha Mitchell, and John and Maureen Dean. She was a good mimic and did an excellent job on Liddy, Nixon, General Haig, and especially the Mitchells and Mo Dean.
"During his annual State of the Union message, President Nixon spoke to the entire nation on television," Ms. Kim told the children. "Many people feel that he lied to us. When a high government official lies, he commits a horrible crime. We've put our trust in that person, based on his solemn word, his integrity."
"Hiss." "Boo!" A couple of kids in class participated in the lesson. Within reason, Vivian Kim encouraged this kind of involvement.
"Boo is absolutely right," she said. "Hiss, too. Anyway, at this moment in our history, Mr. Nixon stood before the nation, before people like you and me." Vivian Kim arranged herself as if she were at a speaking podium. She began to do her version of Richard Nixon for the class.
Ms. Kim made her face dark and gloomy. She shook her head from side to side. "I want you to know… that I have no intention whatever of ever walking away from the job that the American people elected me to do for the people of the United States." Vivian Kim paused on the actual words from Nixon's infamous speech. It was like a held note in a bad but powerful opera.
The classroom of twenty-four children was silent. For the moment, she had completely won their attention. It was a teacher's nirvana, however short-lived. Nice, Vivian Kim thought to herself.
There was a brittle tap, tap, tap on the glass pane of the classroom door. The magical mood was broken.
"Boo! Hiss," Vivian Kim muttered. "Yes? Who's there? Hello? Who is it?" she called.
The glass and polished mahogany door slowly opened. One of the kids hummed from the score of Nightmare on Elm Street. Mr. Soneji, hesitantly, almost shyly, stepped inside. Nearly every child's face in the classroom brightened instantly.
"Anybody home?" Mr. Soneji piped in a thin squeaky voice. The children erupted with laughter. "Ohhh! Look. Everybody's home," he said.
Gary Soneji taught mathematics, and also computer science—which was even more popular than Vivian Kim's class. He was balding, with a droopy mustache, and English schoolboy glasses. He didn't look like a matinee idol, but he was one at the school. In addition to being an inspired teacher, Mr. Soneji was the grand master of Nintendo video games.
His popularity, and the fact that he was a computer wizard, had earned him the nickname "Mr. Chips."
Mr. Soneji greeted a couple of the students by name as he quickly made his way to Ms. Kim's desk.
The two teachers then spoke privately at the front desk. Ms. Kim had her back to the class. She was nodding a lot, not saying much. She seemed tiny standing next to Mr. Soneji, who was over six feet tall.
Finally, Ms. Kim turned to the children. "Maggie Rose and Michael Goldberg? Could the two of you please come up front? Bring your things if you would."
Maggie Rose and Michael exchanged puzzled glances. What was this all about? They gathered their belongings, and then headed to the front to find out. The other kids had begun whispering, even talking out loud in the classroom.
"Okay. Put a lock on it. This isn't recess," Ms. Kim quieted them. "This is still class. Please have some respect for the rules we've all agreed to live by here."
When they got to the front of the classroom, Mr. Soneji crouched down to talk privately to Maggie and Michael. Shrimpie Goldberg was at least four inches shorter than Maggie Rose.
"There's a little problem, but it's nothing to worry about." Mr. Soneji was calm and very gentle with the children. "Everything is basically fine. There's just a little glitch, that's all. Everything is okay, though."
"I don't think so," Michael Goldberg said, shaking his head. "What's this little so-called glitch all about?"
Maggie Rose didn't say anything yet. She was feeling afraid for some reason. Something had happened. Something was definitely wrong. She could feel it in the pit of her stomach. Her mom always told her she had too active an imagination, so she tried to look cool, act cool, be cool.
"We just received a phone call from the Secret Service," said Ms. Kim. "They've gotten a threat. It concerns both you and Maggie. It's probably a crank call. But we're going to hustle you both home as a precaution. Just a safety precaution. You guys know the drill."
"I'm sure you'll both be back before lunch," Mr. Soneji added in support, though he didn't sound too convincing.
"What kind of threat?" Maggie Rose asked Mr. Soneji. "Against Michael's father? Or does it have to do with my mom?"
Mr. Soneji patted Maggie's arm. Time and again, the teachers at the private school were amazed at how grown-up most of these kids were.
"Oh, the usual kind we get now and then. Big talk, no action. Just some jerk looking for attention, I'm sure. Some creep." Mr. Soneji made an exaggerated face. He showed just the right amount of concern, but he made the kids feel secure.
"Then why do we have to go all the way home to Potomac, for crying out loud?" Michael Goldberg grimaced and gesticulated like a miniature courtroom lawyer. In many ways he was a cartoon version of his famous father, the secretary.
"Just to be on the safe side. Okay? Enough said. I'm not going to have a debate with you, Michael. Are we ready to travel?" Mr. Soneji was nice, but firm.
"Not really." Michael continued to frown and shake his head. "No way, José Canseco. Seriously, Mr. Soneji. This isn't fair. It isn't right. Why can't the Secret Service come here and stay till school's over?"
"That's not the way they want to do it," Mr. Soneji said. "I don't make up the rules."
"I guess we're ready," said Maggie. "C'mon, Michael. Stop arguing. This is a done deal."
"It's a done deal." Ms. Kim offered a helpful smile. "I'll send over your homework assignments."
Both Maggie Rose and Michael started to laugh. "Thank you, Ms. Kim!" they said in unison. Leave it to Ms. Kim to have a good joke to fit the situation.
The halls outside the classroom were nearly empty, and very quiet. A porter, a black man named Emmett Everett, was the only person who saw the trio as they left the school building.
Leaning on his broom, Mr. Everett watched Mr. Soneji and the two children walk the length of the long hallway. He was the last person to see them all together.
Once outside, they hurried across the school's cobble-stoned parking lot, which was framed by elegant birch trees and shrubbery. Michael's shoes made clicking noises against the stones.
"Dork shoes." Maggie Rose leaned into him and made a joke. "Look like dork shoes, act like dork shoes, sound like dork shoes."
Michael had no argument. What could he say? His mother and father still bought his clothes at freaking Brooks Brothers. "What am I supposed to be wearing, Miss Gloria Vanderbilt? Pink sneakers?" he offered lamely.
"Sure, pink sneakers." Maggie beamed. "Or lime green Air-outs. But not shoes for a funeral, Shrimpster."
Mr. Soneji led the children to a late-model blue van parked under elm and oak trees that went the length of the administration building and school gym. Nonsynchronous bouncing basketballs echoed from inside the gym.
"The two of you can jump right in back here. Upsy-daisy. There we go," he said. The teacher helped boost them up and into the back of the van. His eyeglasses kept slipping down his nose. Finally, he just took them off.
"You're driving us home?" Michael asked.
- On Sale
- Sep 22, 2020
- Page Count
- 1376 pages
- Little, Brown and Company