Violets are Blue ac-7, page 1part #7 of Alex Cross Series
Violets are Blue
( Alex Cross - 7 )
Two joggers are found murdered in San Francisco's Golden Gate Park, and the killings are bizarrely reminiscent of a Washington, D.C. case that Alex Cross has been unable to solve. He is called to San Francisco, and then learns of similar murders in eight cities from Las Vegas to Charleston. Together with a female San Francisco detective, Cross plunges into a menacing world where posing explodes into bloodlust and frenzy, even as he is being stalked by a terrifying criminal who calls himself the Mastermind.
Violets are Blue
This is for my friend Kyle Craig, who doesn't work for the FBI but who has, I think, a really cool name. I should mention a few other patrons of the arts: Jim Heekin, Mary Jordan, Fern Galperin, Maria Pugatch, Irene Markocki, Barbara Groszewski, Tony Peyser, and my sweet Suzie.
Without any warning
Nothing ever starts where we think it does. So of course this doesn't begin with the vicious and cowardly murder of an FBI agent and good friend named Betsey Cavalierre. I only thought that it did. My mistake, and a really big and painful one.
I arrived at Betsey's house in Woodbridge, Virginia, in the middle of the night. I'd never been there before, but I didn't have any trouble finding it. The FBI and EMS were already there. There were flashing red and yellow lights everywhere, seeming to paint the lawn and front porch with bright, dangerous streaks.
I took a deep breath and walked inside. My sense of balance was off. I was reeling. I acknowledged a tall blond FBI agent I knew named Sandy Hammonds. I could see that Sandy had been crying. She was a friend of Betsey's.
On a hallway table I saw Betsey's service revolver. Beside it was a printed reminder for her next shooting qualifier at the FBI range. The irony stung.
I forced myself to walk down a long hallway that led from the living room to the back of the house. The house looked to be close to a hundred years old and was filled with the kind of country clutter that she'd loved. The master bedroom was situated at the end of the hall.
I knew instantly that the murder had happened in there. The FBI techs and the local police were swarming around the open door like angry wasps near a threatened hive. The house was strangely, eerily quiet. This was as bad as it gets, worse than anything else. Ever.
Another one of my partners was dead.
The second one brutally murdered in two years.
And Betsey had been much more than just a partner.
How could this have happened? What did it mean?
I saw Betsey's small body sprawled on the hardwood floor and I went cold. My hand flew to my face, a reflex I had no control over.
The killer had stripped off her nightclothes. I didn't see them anywhere in the bedroom. The lower body was coated with blood. He'd used a knife. He'd punished Betsey with it. I desperately wanted to cover her, but I knew I couldn't.
Betsey's brown eyes were staring up at me, but they saw nothing. I remembered kissing those eyes and that sweet face. I remembered Betsey's laugh, high-pitched and musical. I stood there for a long time, mourning Betsey, missing her terribly. I wanted to turn away, but I didn't. I just couldn't leave her like this.
As I stood there in the bedroom, trying to figure out something coherent about Betsey's murder, the cell phone in my jacket pocket went off. I jumped. I grabbed it, but then I hesitated. I didn't want to answer.
"Alex Cross," I finally spoke into the receiver.
I heard a machine-filtered voice and it cut right through me. I shuddered against my will.
"I knowwho this is and I even know where you are. At poor, dear, butcheredBetsey's. Do you feel a little bit like a puppet on a string, Detective? You should," said the Mastermind. "Because that's what you are. You're my favorite puppet, in fact."
"Why did you kill her?" I asked the monster. "You didn't have to do this."
He laughed a mechanical laugh and the hairs on the back of my neck stood up. "You ought to be able to figure that out, no? You're the famous Detective Alex Cross. You have all those big, important cases notched on your belt. You caught Gary Soneji, Casanova. You solved Jack and Jill. Christ, you're impressive."
I spoke in a low voice. "Why don't you come after me right now? How about tonight? As you say, you know where I am."
The Mastermind laughed again, quietly, almost under his breath. "How about I kill your grandmother and your three kids tonight? I know where they are too. You left your partner with them, didn't you? You think he can stop me? John Sampson doesn't have a chance against me."
I hung up and ran out of the house in Woodbridge. I called Sampson in Washington and he picked up on the second ring.
"Everything okay there?" I gasped.
"Everything's fine, Alex. No problems here. You don't sound too good, though. What's up? What happened?"
"He said he's coming for you and Nana and the kids," I told John. "The Mastermind."
"Not going to happen, sugar. Nobody will get past me. I hope to hell he tries."
"Be careful, John. I'm on my way back to Washington right now. Please be careful. He's crazy. He didn't just kill Betsey, he defiled her."
I ended the call with Sampson and I sprinted full-out toward my old Porsche.
The cell phone rang again before I got to the car.
"Cross," I answered, still running as I spoke, trying to steady the phone against my chin and ear.
It was him again. He was laughing maniacally. "You can relax, Dr. Cross. I can hear your labored breathing. I'm not going to hurt them tonight. I was just fucking with you. Having some fun at your expense.
"You're running, aren't you? Keep running, Dr. Cross. But you won't be fast enough. You can't get away from me. It's you I want. You're next, Dr. Cross."
The California Murders
United States Army Lieutenant Martha Wiatt and her boyfriend, Sergeant Davis O'Hara, moved at a fast pace as the evening fog began to roll in like a sulfurous cloud across Golden Gate Park in San Francisco. The couple looked sleek, even beautiful, in the waning light of day.
Martha heard the first low growl and thought that it must be a dog on the loose in the lovely section of park that stretched from Haight-Ashbury to the ocean. It came from far enough behind them that she wasn't worried.
"The Big Dawg!" she kidded Davis as they jogged up a steep hill that offered a stellar view of the stunning suspension bridge connecting San Francisco to Marin County. "Big Dawg" was a pet expression they used for everything oversized — from jetliners to sexual apparatus to very large canines.
Soon the thick fog would blanket the bridge and bay completely, but for now it was a gorgeous sight, incomparable, one of their favorite things in San Francisco.
"I love this run, that beautiful bridge, the sunset — the whole ball of wax," Martha said in a steady, relaxed cadence. "But enough bad poetry. It's time for me to kick your well-formed, athletic-looking butt, O'Hara."
"That sounds like cheap-shot female chauvinism to me," he grunted, but he was grinning, showing off some of the whitest teeth she had ever seen, or run her tongue across.
Martha kicked her pace up a notch. She'd been a crosscountry star at Pepperdine University and she was still in great shape. "And that sounds like the beginnings of a gracious loser's speech," she said.
"We'll see about that, won't we? Loser buys at the Abbey."
"I can already taste a Dos Equis. Mmm-mmm good." Suddenly the two runners' playful exchange was interrupted by a much louder growl. It was closer too.
It didn't seem possible that a dog had covered so much ground so fast. Maybe the
"There aren't any cats in this park?" David asked. "I mean, like a mountain lion variety of cats?"
"No. Of course not. Get real, pal. We're in San Francisco, not the middle of Montana." Martha shook her head. Moisture jumped off her close-cropped reddish-brown hair. Then she thought she heard footsteps. A runner and a large dog?
"Let's get out of these woods, okay?" Davis asked.
"I hear you. I don't necessarily disagree. Last one to the parking lot is dog chow."
"Not funny, Lieutenant Martha. Bad joke. This is getting a little spooky."
"I don't know about big cats around these parts, but I think I just spotted a little pussy."
Another loud growl — and it was really close. Right on the heels of the two of them. Gaming ground fast.
"C'mon! Let's go. Let's move it," said Martha Wiatt. She was a little afraid now, running as fast as she could, and that was very fast.
Another eerie growl pierced the gathering fog.
Lieutenant Martha Wiatt had definitely picked up her pace. The distance between her and Davis was growing. She did triathlons for fun. He worked behind a desk, though, God knows, he certainly looked good for an accountant.
"C'mon, c'mon. Keep up with me, Davis. Don't fall back," she called over her shoulder.
Her boyfriend for the past year didn't answer. Well, that settled any future debate about who was in better shape, who was the real athlete. Of course, Martha had known that all along.
The sounds of the next growl and also heavy footsteps crushing leaves were even closer. They were catching up to her.
But whatwas catching up to her?
"Martha! There's something behind me. Oh, God! Run! Run, Martha!" Davis shouted. "Get the hell out of here!"
Adrenaline charged through her. She pushed her head in front of her body as if she were trying for an invisible finish line. Her arms and legs moved in sync like efficient pistons. She leaned her weight forward, the way all good runners do.
She heard more screams behind her. She looked back — but she couldn't see Davis anymore. The screams were so terrifying that she almost stopped running. But Davis had been attacked by something vicious. Martha rationalized that she had to get help. The police. Somebody.
Her boyfriend's screams were ringing in her ears and she was running in total panic, not aware of where she was going. She stumbled over a pointy rock and cartwheeled down a steep hill. Martha crashed into the base of a small tree, but at least it stopped her fall.
In a daze, she managed to pull herself up. Jesus, she was pretty sure she'd broken her right arm. Cradling it with the left, she ran forward in a clumsy stumble.
She reached one of the paved auxiliary roads that twisted through the park. Davis's screams had stopped. What had happened to him? She had to get help.
She saw a pair of headlights approaching and Martha ran out into the middle of the road. She straddled the double center line and felt like a total madwoman. For God's sake, this was San Francisco.
"Please stop, please stop. Hey! Hey! Hey!" She waved her good arm and shouted at the top of her voice. "Stop! I need help!"
The white van sped straight for her, but then, thank God, it skidded to a stop. Two men jumped out and ran to her. They would help. The van said Red Cross on its hood.
"Help me. Please," Martha said. "My boyfriend is hurt."
Everything went from bad to worse. One of them hit her with a closed fist. Before Martha realized what was happening, she went down hard. Her chin struck the pavement, bouncing like a wet ball. She was knocked almost unconscious by the powerful blow.
She looked up, tried to focus her eyes, and wished she hadn't. Blazing red eyes stared down at her. A mouth was open wide. Two horrible mouths. She had never seen such teeth in her life. They were like sharpened knives. The incisors were huge.
She felt the teeth bite into her cheeks, then her neck. How could that be? The teeth tore into her, and Martha screamed until her throat was raw. She rolled and twisted and kicked out at her attackers, but it did no good. They were incredibly strong. Both of them were growling
"Ecstasy," one of them whispered against Martha's ear. "Isn't it beautiful? You're so lucky. You were chosen out of all the beautiful people in San Francisco. You and Davis."
It was a perfect, blue-skied morning in Washington — well, almost perfect. The Mastermind was on my cell phone. "Hello, Alex. Did you miss me? I missedyou, partner."
The bastard had been making obscene, threatening phone calls to me every morning for over a week. Sometimes he just cursed at me for several minutes; this morning he sounded positively civil.
"What's your day look like? Any big plans?" he asked.
Actually, yes — I was planning to catch him. I was inside an FBI van that was already on the move. We were tracing his call and expected to have the exact location very soon. A court order had been put through the FBI, and the phone company was involved in "trapping" the call. I was in the rear of the speeding van with three Bureau agents and also my partner, John Sampson. We had left my house on Fifth Street as soon as the call came in; we were heading onto I-395 North. My job was to keep him on the line until the trace was completed.
"Tell me about Betsey Cavalierre. Why did you pick her instead of me?" I asked him.
"Oh, she's much, much prettier," the Mastermind said. "More fuckable."
One of the techie agents was talking in the background. I tried to listen to both conversations. The agent said, "He's living up to his name. We've got a wiretap and should be able to trace this call immediately. It isn't happening for some reason."
"Why the hell not?" Sampson asked, and moved closer to the agents.
"Don't know exactly. We're picking up different locations, but they keep changing. Maybe he's on a cell phone in a car. Cell phones are harder to trace."
I could see that we were getting off the D Street exit. Then we headed into the Third Street tunnel. Where was he?
"Everything all right, Alex? You seem a little distracted," the Mastermind said.
"No, I'm right here with you, Partner. Enjoying our little breakfast club."
"I don't know why this is so goddamn hard," the FBI techie complained.
Because he's the Mastermind, I wanted to yell at him.
I saw the Washington Convention Center on the right. The van was really clipping along, doing sixty or seventy on the city streets.
We passed the Renaissance Hotel. Where the hell was the Mastermind calling from?
"I think we have a fix on him. We're real close," one of the young agents said in an excited voice.
The FBI van stopped, and suddenly it was chaos inside. Sampson and I pulled out our guns. We had him. I couldn't believe we had him.
Then everyone inside the van groaned and cursed. I looked outside and saw why. I shook my head in disgust.
"Jesus Christ, do you believe this shit!" Sampson yelled, and pounded the wall of the van. We were at 935 Pennsylvania Avenue, the J. Edgar Hoover Building, which is FBI headquarters.
"What's happening now?" I asked the agent in charge. "Where the hell is he?"
"Shit, the signal is roamingagain. It's moving outside Washington. Okay, now it's back in the city. Christ, the signal just skipped out of the country."
"Good bye, Alex. For now, anyway. As I told you before, you're next," the Mastermind said, and then he hung up on me.
The rest of my day was long, hard, and depressing. More than anything, I needed a break from the Mastermind.
I'm not exactly sure when or where or how I had gotten up the nerve, but I had a date that night. It was with a lawyer for the D.A.'s office here in Washington. Elizabeth Moore was wickedly funny and nicely irreverent. She was a large woman with a really sweet smile that made mesmile. We were having dinner at Marcel's in Foggy Bottom, which is a good spot for this kind of thing. The food is French, with a Flemis
After the waiter left with our orders for dessert and coffee, Elizabeth put her hand lightly on top of mine. Our table was lit by a simple votive candle in a crystal holder.
"All right, Alex. We've gone through all the preliminaries. I enjoyedthe preliminaries," she said. "Now what's the catch? There has to be a catch. Has to be. All the good ones aretaken. I know that from experience. So why are you still playing the dating game?"
I understood exactly what Elizabeth meant, but I pretended to look slightly puzzled.
"Catch?" I shrugged, then I finally started to smile.
She laughed out loud. "You're what — thirty-nine, forty?"
"Forty-two, but thanks," I said.
"You passed every test I could possibly throw at you…"
"Such as picking a great spot for dinner. Romantic, but not too romantic. Such as being right on time when you arrived to pick me up. Such as listeningto some of the things that actually interest me. Such as being very handsome — not that it matters to me. Yeah, right."
"I also like children, wouldn't mind having more," I added. "I've read all of Toni Morrison's novels. I'm a decent plumber. I can cook if I have to."
"The catch?" she asked again. "Let's leave it."
Our waiter returned with the coffee and desserts, and right as he was pouring a steaming cup for Elizabeth, the beeper on my belt went off.
I looked across the table at her — and I blinked. I was definitely the first one to blink.
"You mind if I take this? It's important. I recognize the number — the FBI in Quantico. I won't be long. I'll be right back."
JAMES PATTERSON SERIES:
Other author's books:
- Along Came a SpiderKiss the Girls1st to DieThe Angel ExperimentSchool's Out - ForeverSuzanne's Diary for NicholasManhuntPrivate India
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