Home > Deadly Cross (Alex Cross #28)(4)

Deadly Cross (Alex Cross #28)(4)
Author: James Patterson

An FBI blood-spatter expert soon determined they were shot from less than twenty feet. A tech who specialized in bullet trajectory said the killer probably stood ten or fifteen feet away from the front bumper and was tall enough to shoot over the intact windshield.

“Brass?” I asked.

The tech shook his head. “Smart shooter. Picked up after himself.”

“Does that say I’m a hophead? Killing two people to grab diamonds and pearls, money, and phones?” Sampson said.

“A hophead wouldn’t care about brass,” I said. “So scratch that killer profile. And even if Kay was wearing one of her really big necklaces, I’m having trouble seeing a pro killing her to get it.”

Mahoney nodded. “Why not just a holdup? Her boobs are out; his pants are down. They’d be compliant.”

“Right,” Sampson said. “So this is made to look like a robbery gone bad.”

“Maybe,” I said. “Or maybe a scavenger passed by after the killer left.”

“And maybe the scavenger saw the shooter,” Mahoney said.

“I like that maybe,” Sampson said, pointing at Ned. “I’m gonna work my sources on the street, find out where a scavenger would go to fence jewels in this hood.”

“Good,” Mahoney said, then he looked at me. “After Christopher’s office, I’ll need you at Kay Willingham’s place.”

I said, “Let’s not forget there’s another possible classic-killer profile here.”

“Which one?” Mahoney asked.

“The vengeful wife,” I said. “Where’s Mrs. Christopher in all this?”

Sampson left. Mahoney and I entered the high school and got the janitor to open the principal’s suite of offices, which were dark. We passed the secretary’s desk and went through a door into a nice large office with Christopher’s framed diplomas, citations, and family photographs on the walls between the bookcases. The desk was remarkably tidy.

A door stood ajar on one side. I found a switch, turned it on, and saw a much smaller second office that looked more used. There was a printer but no computer, although there was space for a laptop on the desk crowded with books and correspondence. This was where he’d really worked. “We’ll need agents to go through the mounds of stuff and find his computer.”

“Probably at his house — ” Mahoney started. His phone buzzed before he could finish. “Great. I have to brief the media.”

“How fun,” I said. “I’m going to go to Christopher’s home and talk to the wife, then I’ll go to Kay’s house in Georgetown.”

When I left, I noticed a gap in the school perimeter fence, and I went through it so I could skirt the media circus.

When I was almost to my car, a man called out, “Dr. Cross? I thought I’d find you somewhere about.”

I knew that whiny, nasal voice and waved my hand without slowing. “No comment, Sparkman.”

“No comment? I haven’t even asked a question.”

“See there?” I said, reaching my car. “I’m saving you the time and effort.”

“Oh, I think you’ll want to comment,” he said, and I finally looked at him.

Clive Sparkman was in his early forties, disheveled, and generally a rude pain in the ass who made a very comfortable living running a highly clicked-on website that spread news, gossip, rumors, and outright lies about power brokers of all persuasions in the nation’s capital. He also published lurid stories about murder cases, which was how we’d become acquainted.

“I know this case is a twofer for you, Sparkman, politics and homicide,” I said. “But I’m not answering any questions about an ongoing investigation. You want to know something new? Go listen to the FBI briefing in ten minutes.”

Sparkman cocked his head knowingly. “I’ll be there listening to every word, but I’ll know something no one else does, something I’m considering publishing on my site tomorrow morning — a little nasty sidebar about this case for the rabidly interested.”

I opened the car door, started to get in, said, “I’ve got places to be.”

Sparkman said, “Actually, it’s about you, Cross, and … Kay Willingham?”

I froze but looked at him dispassionately.

He took off his sunglasses and smiled. “Did you have an affair with the vice president’s wife, Alex? Were you the cause of the divorce? I’ve seen a photograph of you two together, and I must say, you’re awfully chummy. Care to comment now?”

“Go to hell, Sparkman, and write anything you want,” I said. “But make sure you’re accurate in that rumor or you will hear from my lawyer. His name is Craig Halligan. You remember him, don’t you? The guy who sued you for libel, took you for four million?”

Sparkman looked like he’d swallowed a parasite.

“Thought so,” I said. I shut the door and sped off.

 

 

CHAPTER 8

 

 

IT ACTUALLY TOOK A BIT of digging to figure out where Randall Christopher lived. The name on the lease of his rented home, it turned out, was Elaine Paulson, Christopher’s wife. I rang the front-porch bell on the left side of a duplex on Tenth Street between F and G Streets, but no one answered.

I rang the neighbor’s bell next, and a big woman, mid-forties, wearing hospital scrubs and looking weary, opened the door a few inches but left the chain on.

“Yes?” she said.

“I was looking for Elaine Paulson?”

She grimaced. “She’s gone.”

“Do you know when she’ll be back?”

“No idea.”

“Who are you?” I asked.

“Who I am is none of your business,” she said, and she started to close the door.

I put my fingers on it, said, “I work for the FBI and Metro Homicide, ma’am. This is a murder investigation.”

That stopped her. “Murder? Who was murdered?”

“Ms. Paulson’s husband,” I said. “Randall Christopher.”

Her left hand lifted slowly to her mouth. “Oh God,” she moaned. “Oh God, don’t tell me that.”

“It’s all over the news. Or will be, and I need to talk to his wife sooner rather than later.”

“I think I’m gonna be sick. Can you come back?”

“Uh, no, this is a murder investigation, and we need your help.”

She didn’t appear pleased about it, but she slid back the chain and opened the door.

I held out my hand. “Alex Cross.”

Her eyebrows raised in interest, and she shook my hand. “I recognize you now. From the news. I’m sorry. I’m Barbara Taylor.”

“Nice to meet you, Barbara,” I said. “May I come in?”

Taylor closed her eyes for a moment. “I’m going to get sucked into this, aren’t I?”

“I just need to ask you a few questions.”

“My ex got me sucked into things I didn’t want any part of.”

“Mr. Christopher is dead. You can help.”

She hesitated, then stood aside. “Can I get you a cup of coffee? Some iced tea?”

“The iced tea sounds great, thanks,” I said, and I followed her through a tidy living area into a tidier kitchen.

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