Home > Deadly Cross (Alex Cross #28)(6)

Deadly Cross (Alex Cross #28)(6)
Author: James Patterson

The floors were two-hundred-year-old plankboard interrupted by tasteful squares of cream-colored carpet. The furniture was early sixties glamour, from the Kennedy era; “pieces of restored Camelot,” Kay had called them. The couches were upholstered in wide stripes of indigo blue and mouse gray. Some of the overstuffed wingback chairs were blue, and others were gray. All so familiar I could not help replaying that night in my mind.

We had met at a fundraiser for victims’ rights. This was years ago, when her husband was the governor of Alabama and they were separated and contemplating divorce. The car service that normally picked Kay up was late; she’d had a few drinks, and I’d offered her a ride home in my car.

I’d be lying if I said there was not a genuine spark between us after I’d caught her when she fell. That sense had continued inside the house.

I accepted a brandy. I couldn’t remember what music she’d put on, but it was perfect. She’d danced away from me, twirling across the floor and the carpet, barefoot, totally free, and laughing.

“God, she was something,” I said to myself and walked over to a built-in shelf in the corner that was crammed with pictures of moments in Kay’s remarkable life.

I found one that she’d shown me that night, a framed snapshot of an eleven-year-old Kay cheek to cheek with an African-American girl, both of them wet from swimming, both of them grinning with love.

“That’s Althea,” Kay had said softly. “Best friend I’ve ever had. Only person I’ve trusted completely in my entire life.”

“Where does she live?”

“Here and there,” she’d said. Her phone rang. She picked it up, listened, and said, “Walter, I’m home before curfew, and yes, I’ve had a few drinks, but I’m going to bed now. Does that work for you?”

She listened again, her brows tightening. “Good night.”

Kay hung up the phone and stood there a long moment as if in a trance. When it broke, she looked at me sadly. “It’s time for me to say good night, Alex.”

Whatever spark there was between us out on the sidewalk had died. I set my untouched brandy on the coffee table, said her house was beautiful, and got ready to leave.

“Could you check around the house? That’s what my driver usually does before I set the alarm and go to bed. Thank you for not letting me fall out there,” she said. “I’d have probably broken something irreparably.”






THE BIG APARTMENT BUILDING ACROSS the street from Harrison Charter High School was being totally renovated, so no one lived there at the moment. It was surrounded by a high chain-link fence to keep people out of the construction site. John Sampson noticed two security cameras mounted on the fence posts and aimed at the street.

He went to the supervisor at the site and asked for copies of the feeds from midnight on the evening before but was told the cameras had been down since the big lightning storm a few days earlier. Frustrated, he walked up the street, looking for more security cameras. His cell phone rang. His wife, Billie.

“Hey, baby,” he said. “How you feeling?”

“Better every day,” she said.

“What we love to hear. What’s up?”

“I didn’t get a chance to see you this morning and I wanted to tell you I love you before I go get Willow from camp.”

Sampson softened and slowed down. “That’s the best news I’ve heard all day. I love you too, baby.”

“Big case?”

“Big as they come,” Sampson said, quickening his pace. “I’ll tell you what I can when I get home. Make sure you get your rest, hear?”

“I hear you,” she said and clicked off.

Beyond a vacant lot to the north of the apartment building, on the northeast corner of the block, there was a two-story white structure that housed a small bodega and a laundromat at street level. Two cameras were mounted below the second floor and aimed out at the street and school grounds, but because they were painted the same color as the building, Sampson almost didn’t see them.

He went inside the bodega and regretted it the moment he did, finding it packed with scruffy types buying provisions for the media people camped out around the crime scene. Thankfully, none of them seemed to recognize him as they chatted and traded unsubstantiated rumors about the case.

“Kay knew too much,” he heard one kid say. “Mark my words, she knew too much.”

“I dunno,” said another. “Randall rubbed a lot of folks hard. Especially in this neighborhood. Drug dealers and such.”

Sampson listened without judgment. He pressed his hand against his jacket to cover the badge on his hip, picked up a Diet Coke and a bag of kettle potato chips—his secret vices — and got in line to pay for them. Two people were working the registers: a grinning, homely, redheaded guy in his late forties and a girl in her late teens with green hair, tats, and piercings, all of which went well with her miserable mood.

When Sampson reached the front of the line, he got the Goth; her name tag read LUCY. He set the chips and the soda down.

“That makes no sense unless your goal is blimpdom,” she said, managing to sound bored, mildly disgusted, and sarcastic at the same time. She gestured at the chips and soda.

“Excuse me?” Sampson said.

“The combo. The diet soda’s supposed to make you lean, but it actually makes you fat. The chips are supposed to make you fat, and they do it double time.”

Irritated, Sampson opened his jacket to show her his badge and gun. “Do I look fat?” he asked quietly as he leaned forward.

“No,” Lucy said, drawing back. “This about — ”

“It is,” Sampson said, still talking low. “Who’s the owner?”

Lucy pointed her thumb at the other cashier, who was engaged in pleasant chitchat with a woman from the neighborhood. “Mr. Peters.”

Sampson paid for the chips and soda. “Lucy, after I leave, tell Mr. Peters quietly that I am a detective and I would like to speak to him outside.”

Lucy looked indignant. “I’ll be swamped.”

“Better than having me lock the doors and Mr. Peters and you making no money,” Sampson said. “I’ll be outside.”

A few minutes later, Peters came out, looked around, saw Sampson, and beamed. He rushed over, extending his hand. “Ronald Peters, Detective …”

“Sampson,” he said, showing him his credentials. “Metro Homicide.”

Peters’s smile faded, but his gaze stayed steady on Sampson. “I heard. Mostly from the reporters. Is it true? Randall Christopher? And the vice president’s ex-wife?”

Sampson nodded.

“Jesus,” Peters said, shaking his head. “You never know, do you?”

“You knew Christopher?”

“Yup,” he said. “Came in every so often to pick up a few things, make sure I wasn’t having any problems with his students.”

“Did you have problems with his students?”

“Not one,” Peters said, nodding. “That guy ran a tight ship. His kids were always polite. Not even a shoplifting attempt, which is a miracle.”

“That’s saying something.”

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