'I know Cross has been on the force for just over eight years. He's currently the liaison between the department and the FBI, works with theViolent Criminal Apprehension Program. He's a profiler with a good reputation, from what I hear. Has a Ph. D. in psych from Johns Hopkins. Private practice for three years before he came to us. Widower, two kids, plays the blues on the piano at his house. That enough background? What more do you want to know? I've done my homework. You know me.' Hampton said, and finally smiled.
Pittman was smiling now, too. He had small teeth with spaces between them, and always made her think of Eastern European refugees, or maybe Russian gangsters.
Detective Hampton smiled, though. She knew he liked it when she played along with him - as long as he thought she respected him.
'Any other worthwhile observations at this point?' he asked.
You're such a softy, flabby dick, Patsy Hampton wanted to say, but she just shook her head. 'He has some charm. He's well-connected in political circles. I can see why you're concerned about him.'
'You think Cross is charming?'
'I told you, he's slick. He is. People say he looks like the young Muhammad Ali. I think he likes to play the part sometimes. Float like a butterfly, sting like a bee.' She laughed again - and so did he.
'We're going to nail Cross.' Pittman said. 'We'll send him flying back to private practice. Wait and see. You're going to help get it done. You get things done, right, Detective Hampton? You see the bigger picture. That's what I like about you.'
She smiled again. 'That's what I like about me, too.'
Chapter Sixteen The British Embassy is a plain, federal-style building located at 3100 Massachusetts Avenue. It sits next to the vice-president's house - the Observatory - and also the ambassador's residence, a stately Georgian building with tall, flowing white columns. The Chancery is the actual office building; the embassy is where the ambassador lives. Geoffrey Shafer sat behind his small mahogany desk at the embassy and stared out onto Massachusetts Avenue. The embassy staff currently counted 415 people, soon to be cut to 414; he was thinking to himself. The staff included defense experts, foreign-policy specialists, trade, public affairs, clerks and secretaries.
Although the US and Britain have an agreement not to spy on each other, Geoffrey Shafer was nonetheless a spy. He was one of eleven men and women from the Security Service, formerly -known as MI6, who worked at the embassy in Washington. These eleven ran agents attached to the consulates-general in Atlanta, Boston, Chicago, Houston, Los Angeles, New York, and San Francisco.
He was feeling restless as hell today, getting up from his desk frequently, pacing back and forth across the carpet that covered the creaking parquet floors. He made phone calls he didn't need to make, tried to get some work done, thought about how much he despised his job and the everyday details of life.
He was supposed to be working on a truly silly communique about the government's absurd ongoing commiI'ment to human rights. The Foreign Secretary had rather bombastically proclaimed that Britain would support international condemnation of regimes that violated human rights; support international bodies involved in the cause; denounce human rights abuses, blah, blah, blah, ad nauseam.
He glanced through a few of the computer games he enjoyed when he was uptight like this - Riven, Mech-Commander, Unreal, TOCA, Ultimate Soccer Manager. None of them appealed to him right now; nothing did.
He was starting to crash, and he knew the feeling. I'm going down and there is only one certain way to stop it: play The Four Horsemen.
To make matters worse, it was raining and woefully gray-skied outside. The city of Washington, and also the surrounding countryside, looked forlorn and depressing. Christ, he was in a bad mood, even for him.
He continued to stare east across Massachusetts Avenue, looking into the trees bordering a park dedicated to the pacifist bullshit artist KaWil Gibran. He tried to day-dream, mostly about fucking various attractive women currently working at the embassy.
He had called his psychiatrist, Boo Cassady, at her home office, but she was about to start a session and couldn't talk for long. They agreed to meet after work. A nasty quickie at her place, before he went home to face Lucy and the sniveling brood.
He didn't dare play Horsemen again tonight. It was too soon since the nurse. But God Almighty - he wanted to play. He wished he could take somebody out in some very imaginative way, right there inside the embassy.
He did have one excellent thing to do today - saving it until now, three in the afternoon. He had used the dice already, played a bit of Horsemen, just to help him make a personnel decision.
He had called Sarah Middleton just before lunch and told her they needed to have a chat and could she stop by his office, say at three?
Sarah was obviously tense on the phone and told him she could do it earlier, anytime, at his convenience. 'Not busy then, nothing much to do today?' Shafer asked. Three o'clock would be fine, she answered hastily.
His secretary, the bestial Betty formerly from Belgravia, buzzed him promptly at three. At least he'd finally got through to her about punctuality.
Shafer let her buzz him several times, then picked up the phone abruptly, as if she'd interrupted him at something vital to security.
'What is it, Ms Thomas? I'm extremely busy with this communique for the Secretary.'
'I'm sorry to interrupt, Mr. Shafer, but Ms. Middleton is here. You have a three o'clock appoinI'ment with her, I understand.'
'Hmmm. Do I? Yes, you're right. Can you ask Sarah to wait? I'll need a few more minutes. I'll buzz when I'm ready to see her.'
Shafer smiled contentedly and picked up a copy of The Red Coat, the embassy employee newsletter. He knew Betty hated it when he used Ms. Middleton's Christian name. Sarah.
He fantasized about Sarah for the next few moments. He'd wanted to have a go at Mzzz Middleton from their first interview, but he was too careful for that. God, he hated the bitch. This was going to be such fun.
He watched the rain hammer down on the traffic crossing Massachusetts Avenue for another ten minutes. Finally Shafer snatched up the phone. He couldn't wait a minute longer. I'll see her now. Send Sarah in.'
He fingered his twenty-sided dice. This could be fun, actually. Terror at the office.
Chapter Seventeen The lovely Sarah Middleton entered his office and managed a cordial look, almost a smile. He felt like a boa constrictor eyeing a mouse.
She had naturally curly red hair, a moderately pretty face, a superior figure. Today she wore a very short suit, red V-necked silk blouse, black stockings. It was obvious to Shafer that she was out to catch a husband in Washington.
Shafer's pulse was beating hard. He was aroused by her, always had been. He thought about taking her, and very much liked that phrase. She didn't look as nervous and unsure of herself as she had recently, so that probably meant she was really scared and trying not to show it. He tried his best to think like Sarah. That made it more fun, though he found it a real challenge to be as squirrely and insecure as she would surely be.
'We certainly needed the rain,' Sarah said, and then cringed before the sentence was even finished.
'Sarah, please sit down'. he said. He was trying to keep a straight business face. 'Personally, I loathe the rain. It's one of the many reasons I've never been stationed in London.'
He sighed theatrically behind the rigid tent he'd made with his fingers. He wondered if Sarah noticed the length of his fingers and wondered how large he was elsewhere. He would bet anything that she did. It was how people's minds worked, though women like Sarah would never admit it.
She cleared her throat, then put her hands on her knees. The knuckles of her fingers were white. Christ, he was enjoying her obvious discomfort. She looked ready to jump out of her skin. How about out of her tight little skirt and blouse?
He began to stretch the fingers on his right hand, playing his part as dominator to the hilt. 'Sarah, I think I have some bad news, quite unfortunate really, but can't be avoided.'
She sat nervously forward in her chair. She really was nicely built up top. He was getting hard now. 'What is it, Mr. Shafer? What do you mean? You think you have bad news? You do or you don't?'
'We have to let you go. I have to let you go. Budget cuts, I'm afraid,' he said. 'I know you must find this immensely unfair, and unexpected as well. Particularly when you moved halfway across the world from Australia to take this job, and you've been living in Washington for less than six months. Suddenly, the ax falls.'
He could tell she was actually fighting back tears. Her lips were trembling. Obviously she hadn't expected this. She had no idea. She was a reasonably smart and controlled woman, but she couldn't help herself now.
Excellent. He had succeeded in breaking her down. He wished he had a video camera this minute to record the look on her face and play it back countless times in private.
He saw the very instant that she lost it, and treasured it. He watched her eyes moisten, saw the large tears roll over her cheeks, streaking her working-girl makeup.
He felt the power and it was as good as he'd hoped it would be. A small, insignificant game certainly, but a delicious one. He loved being able to instill such shock and pain.
'Poor Sarah. Poor, poor dear,' he murmured.
Then Shafer did the cruelest, most unforgivable thing. Also the most outrageous and dangerous. He got up from his desk and came around to comfort her. He stood behind her, pressing himself against her shoulders. He knew it was the last thing she wanted, to be touched by him, to feel that he was aroused.
She stiffened, and pulled away from him as if he were on fire. 'Bastard,' she said, between clenched teeth, 'you are a consummate prick!'
Sarah left his office, shaking and in tears, running in that stumbling way women often do in heels. Shafer loved it. The sadistic pleasure, not only of hurting someone, but destroying this innocent woman. He memorized the stunning image for all time. He would play it back, over and over. Yes, he was a prick. Consummate indeed.
Chapter Eighteen Rosie the cat was perched on the window sill, watching me dress for my date with Christine. I envied the simplicity of her life: love to eat those mousies, mousies what I love to eat.
I finally headed downstairs. I was taking the night off from work and I was more nervous, distracted and fidgety than I had been in a long time. Nana and the kids knew something was up, but they didn't know what, and it was driving my three favorite busybodies crazy.
'Daddy, tell me what's going on, please?' Jannie clasped her hands in prayer and begged.
'I told you no, and no is no. Not even if you get down on your bony little knees.' I said, and smiled. 'I have a date tonight. It's just a date. That's all you need to know, young lady.'
'Is it with Christine?' Jannie asked. 'At least you can tell me that much.' 'That's for me to know.' I said as I knotted my tie in the mirror beside the stairs. 'And you not to find out, my over-inquisitive girlfriend.'
'You're wearing your fancy blue-striped suit, your fancy dancing shoes, that fancy tie you like. You're so fancy.'
'Do I look good?' I turned and asked my personal clothier. 'For my date?'
'You look beautiful, Daddy.' My girl beamed and I knew I could believe her. Her eyes were shiny little mirrors that always told the truth. 'You know you do. You know you're handsome as sin.'
"That's my girl.' I said, and laughed again. Handsome as sin. She got that one from Nana no doubt.
Damon mimicked his sister. 'You look beautiful, Daddy. What a little brownnoser. What do you want from Daddy, Jannie?'
'Do I look good?' I turned to Damon.
He rolled his eyes. 'You look all right. How come you're all duded up? You can tell me. Man to man. What s the big deal?'
'Answer the poor children!' Nana finally said.
I looked her way, and offered up a wide grin. 'Don't use the "poor children" to try to get your gossip quotient for the day. Well, I'm off.' I announced. 'I'll be home before sunrise. Moo-ha-ha-ha.' I did my favorite monster imitation and all three of them rolled their eyes.
It was a minute or so before eight, and as I stepped onto the porch, a black Lincoln town car pulled up in front of the house. It was right on time, and I didn't want to be late.
'A limousine?' Jannie gasped, and nearly swooned on the front porch. 'You're going out in a limousine?' 'Alex Cross!' Nana said. 'What is going on?' I practically danced down the steps. I got into the waiting car, shut the door, told the driver to go. I waved out the back window and stuck out my tongue as the car smoothly pulled away from our house.
Chapter Nineteen My last image was of the three of them, Jannie, Damon, and Nana, all mugging and sticking out their tongues at me. We do have some fabulously good times together, I was thinking as the car headed over to Prince Georges County, where I had once confronted a homicidal twelve-year-old during the halcyon days of the Jack and Jill killers, and where Christine Johnson lived.
I had my mantra all set for tonight - heart leads head. I needed to believe that was so.
'A private car? A limousine?' Christine exclaimed when I picked her up at her house in Mitchellville.
She looked as stunningly beautiful as I've ever seen her, and that's saying a lot. She wore a long sleeveless black shift, black satin pumps with straps, and had a floral brocade jacket over her arm. The heels made her a little over six feet tall. God, how I loved this woman, everything about her.
We walked to the car and got inside.
'You haven't told me where we're going tonight, Alex. Just that its fancy. Someplace special.'
'Ah, but I've told our driver.' I said. I tapped the partition window and the town car moved off into the summer night. Alex the mysterious.
I held Christine's hands as we drove along on the John Hanson Highway, back toward Washington. Her face tilted toward mine and I kissed her in the cozy darkness. I loved the sweetness of her mouth, her lips, the softness and smoothness of her skin. She was wearing a new perfume that I didn't recognize, and I liked that, too. I kissed the hollow of her throat, then her cheeks, her eyes, her hair. I would have been happy to do just this for the rest of the night.
'It is unbelievably romantic,' she finally said. 'It is special. You are something else... sugar.'
We cuddled and hugged all the way into Washington. We talked, but I don't remember the subject. I could feel her breasts rising and falling against me. I was surprised when we arrived at the intersection of Massachusetts and Wisconsin Avenues. We were getting close to the surprise.
Christine hadn't asked anymore questions. Not until the car eased up in front of Washington National Cathedral, and the driver got out and held the door open for us.
The National Cathedral?' she said. 'We're going in here?'
I nodded and stared up at the stunning Gothic masterpiece that I'd admired since I was a boy. The Cathedral crowns over fifty acres of lawns and woods and is Washington's highest point, even higher than the Washington Monument. If I remembered correctly, it was the second largest church in the United States, and possibly the prettiest.
I led the way, and Christine followed me inside. She held my hand lightly. We entered the northwest corner of the nave, which extends nearly a tenth of a mile to a massive altar.
Everything felt special and very beautiful, spiritual, just right. We walked up to a pew under the amazing Space Window at mid-nave. Everywhere I looked there were priceless stained-glass windows, over two hundred in all.
The light inside was exquisite; I felt blessed. There was a kaleidoscope of changing colors on the walls: reds, warm yellows, cool blues.
'Beautiful, isn't it?' I whispered. 'Timeless, sublime, all that good Gothic stuff Henry Adams used to write about.'
'Oh, Alex, I think it's the prettiest spot in Washington. The Space Window, the Children's Chapel. I've always loved it here. I told you that, didn't I?' she asked.
'You might have mentioned it once,' I said. 'Or maybe I just knew it.'
We continued walking until we entered the Children's Chapel. It is small, beautiful, and wonderfully intimate. We stood under a stained-glass window that tells the story of Samuel and David as children.
I turned and looked at Christine and my heart was beating so loud I was sure she could hear it. Her eyes were sparkling like jewels in the flickering candlelight. The black dress shimmered and seemed to flow over her body.
I knelt on one knee and looked up at her.
'I've loved you since the first time I saw you at the Sojourner Truth School.' I whispered, so that only she could hear me. 'Except that when I saw you the first time, I had no way of knowing how incredibly special you are on the inside. How wise, how good. I didn't know that I could feel the way I do - whole and complete - whenever I'm with you. I would do anything for you. Or just to be with you for one more moment.'
I stopped for the briefest pause and took a breath. She held my eyes, didn't pull away.
'I love you so much and I always will. Will you marry me, Christine?'
She continued to look into my eyes, and I saw such warmth and love, but also humility, which is always a part of who Christine is. It was almost as if she couldn't imagine my loving her.
'Yes, I will. Oh, Alex, I shouldn't have waited until tonight. But this is so perfect, so special, I'm almost glad I did. Yes, I will be your wife.'
I took an antique engagement ring out and I gently slid it onto Christine's finger. The ring had been my mother's and I'd kept it since she died when I was nine. The exact history of the ring was unclear, except that it went back at least four generations in the Cross family and was my one and only heirloom. We kissed in the glorious Children's Chapel of the National Cathedral and it was the best moment of my life, never to be forgotten, never to be diminished in any way.
Yes, I will be your wife.
Chapter Twenty Ten days had passed without another fantasy murder, but now a powerful mood swing had taken hold of Geoffrey Shafer and he let himself go with the flow.
He was flying high as a kite; hyper, manic, bipolar, whatever the doctors wanted to call his condition. He'd already taken Ativan, Librium, Valium, and Depakote, but the drugs only seemed to fuel his jets.
That night at around six he pulled the black Jaguar out of the lot on the north side of the embassy, passing by the larger-than-life Winston Churchill statue, with its stubby right hand raised in a V for victory, its left hand holding his trademark cigar.
Eric Clapton played guitar loudly on the car's CD. He turned up the volume higher, slapping his hands hard on the steering wheel, feeling the rhythm, the beat, the primal urge.
Shafer turned onto Massachusetts Avenue and then stopped at a Starbucks. He hurried in and fixed up three coffees his way. Black as his heart, with six sugars. Mmm, hmmm. As usual, he had nearly finished the first before he got to the cash register.
Once he was inside the cockpit of his Jag again, he sipped a second cup at a more leisurely pace. He downed some Benadryl and Nascan. Couldn't hurt, might help. He took out the twenty-sided game dice. He had to play tonight.
Anything twelve or higher would dispatch him directly to Boo Cassadys place for a kinky quickie before he went home to the dreaded family. A seven to eleven was total disaster - straight home to Lucy and the kids. Three, four, five, or six meant he could go to the hideaway, for an unscheduled night of high adventure.
'Come three, four, five. Come baby, come! I need this tonight. Need a fix! I need it!'
He shook the dice for what must have been thirty seconds. He made the suspense last, drew it out. Finally, he released the dice onto the gray leather car seat. He watched the roll closely.
Jesus, he'd thrown a four! Defied the odds! His brain was on fire. He could play tonight. The dice had spoken; fate had spoken.
He excitedly punched a number on his cell phone. 'Lucy,' he said, and he was smiling already.
'Glad I caught you at home, darling... Yes, you guessed it, first try. We're completely swamped here again. Can you believe it? I certainly can't. They think they own me, and I suppose they're half-right. Its the drug-trafficking rubbish again. I'll be home when I can. Don't wait up, though. Love to the kids. Kisses to everybody. Me too, darling. I love you too. You're the best, the most understanding wife alive.'
Very well played, Shafer thought as he breathed a sigh of relief. Excellent performance, considering the drugs he'd taken. Shafer disconnected from his wife, whose family money, unfortunately, paid for the town house, holidays away, even the Jag, and her fashionable Range Rover, of course.
He punched another number on the cell phone.
'Dr. Cassady.' He heard her voice almost immediately. She knew it was him. He usually called from the car on his way over to see her. They liked to get each other hot and bothered on the phone. Telephone sex as foreplay.
They've done it to me again.' Shafer whined miserably into the phone, but he was smiling again, loving his flair for the overdramatic.
A short silence, then 'You mean they did it to us, don't you? There's no way you can get away? Its only a bloody job, and one that you detest, Geoff.'
'You know I would if I possibly could. I do hate it here, loathe every moment. And it's even worse at home, Boo. Jesus, you of all people know that.'
He imagined the tight little frown and Boo pursing her lips. 'You sound high, Geoffrey. Are you, dear? Take your pills today?'
'Don't be horrible. Of course I've taken my medications. I am rushed. I am high. On the ceiling, as a matter of fact. I'm calling between blasted staff meetings. Oh hell, I miss you, Boo. I want to be inside you, deep inside. I want to do your pussy, your ass, your throat. I'm thinking about it right now. Christ, I'm as hard as a rock here in my government-issue office. Have to beat it down with a stick. Cane it. That's how we British handle such things.'
She laughed and he almost changed his mind about standing her up. 'Go back to work. I'll be at home - if you finish early,' she said. 'I could use a little finishing myself.'
'I love you, Boo. You're so kind to me.'
'I am, and I could probably get into a little caning, too.'
He hung up, and drove to the hideaway in Eckington. He parked the Jag next to the purple-and-blue taxi in the garage. He bounded upstairs to change for the game. God, he loved this, his secret life, his nights away from everything and everyone he loathed.
He was taking too many chances now, but he didn't care.
Chapter Twenty-One Shafer was totally pumped up for a night on the town. The Four Horsemen was on. Anything could happen tonight. Yet he found that he was introspective and pensive. He could flip from manic to depressive in the blink of an eye.
He watched himself as if he were an observer in a dream. He had been a British intelligence agent, but now that the Cold War was ended, there was little use for his talents. It was only the influence of Lucy's father that had kept him in his job. Duncan Cousins had been a general in the army, and now was chairman of a packaged-goods conglomerate specializing in the sale of detergents, soaps, and drugstore perfume. He liked to call Shafer 'the Colonel', rubbing in his 'rise to mediocrity'. The General also loved to talk about the glowing successes of Shafer's two brothers, both of whom had made millions in business.