Pop Goes The Weasel James Patterson

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The nights belonged to Christine and me, and we made the most of them. We hit all the best spots: the Terrace Bar at the Palm Reef, the Gazebo Lounge at the Princess, the Clay House Inn, Once Upon a Table in Hamilton, Horizons in Paget. I loved being with her and that thought kept drifting through my mind. I felt that what we shared had been strengthened because I had backed off and given her time and space. And I felt whole again. I kept remembering the very first time I had seen her in the schoolyard at Sojourner Truth. She's the one, Alex. That thought still played in my head too.

We sat at the Terrace Bar overlooking the city and harbor of Hamilton. It was dotted with small islands, white sails, ferries back and forth to Warwick and Paget. We held hands and I couldn't stop staring into her eyes, didn't want to.

'Big thoughts' she finally said.

'I've been thinking a lot about going into private practice again,' I told her. 'I think it might be the best thing to do.'

She stared into my eyes. 'I don't want you to do it for me, Alex. Please don't make me the cause of your leaving your job with the police. I know you love it. Most days you do.'

'The job has been tearing at me lately. Pittman isn't just a difficult boss, I think he's a bad guy. What happened to Sampson and the others is just bullshit. They were working unsolved cases on their own time. I'm tempted to give the story to Zach Taylor at the Post. People would riot if they knew the truth. Which is why I won't give it to the Post.'

She listened and tried to help but she didn't push, and I appreciated that. 'It does sound like a terrible, complicated, nasty mess, Alex. I'd like to punch out Pittman, too. He's choosing politics over protecting people. I'm sure you'll know what to do when the time is right.'

The next morning, I found her walking in the garden, with tropical flowers strewn in her hair. She looked radiant, even more than usual, and I fell in love all over again.

'There's an old saying I've been hearing since I was a little girl,' she told me as I joined her. 'If you have only two pennies, buy a loaf of bread with one, and a lily with the other.'

I kissed her hair, in between the flowers. I kissed her sweet lips, her cheeks, the hollow in her throat.

The kids and I went back to Horseshoe Bay beach early that afternoon. They couldn't get enough of the deep blue sea, swimming, snorkeling, building sand castles, and of course it was almost time to start school again so everything about our vacation was extra special and intense.

Christine took a moped trip into Hamilton to pick up mementos for a few of the teachers at Sojourner Truth. We all waved until she was out of sight on Middle Road. Then back into the water!

Around five o'clock, Damon, Jannie, and I finally returned to the Belmont Hotel, which sat like a sentinel on lush green hills framed by china-blue skies. All around, everywhere we looked, were pastel-colored cottages with white roofs. Nana was sitting out on the porch, talking to a couple of her new best friends. Paradise regained, I thought, and felt something deep and sacred coming back to life inside me.

As I stared out at the cloudless blue sky, I regretted that Christine wasn't there to share it. I actually missed her in just that short a time. I hugged Jannie and Damon and we were all smiling at the obvious. We loved being here together and we were so damn fortunate to have one another.

'You miss her,' Jannie whispered. It was a statement, not a question. 'That's good, Daddy. That's the way it should be, right.'

When Christine still hadn't returned by six o'clock, I struggled between conflicting thoughts of waiting for her at the hotel or driving into Hamilton myself. Maybe she'd had an accident. Those damn mopeds, I thought, having found them fun and perfectly safe just the afternoon before.

I finally spotted a tall, slender woman entering through the front gates of the Belmont, walking against a background of hibiscus and oleander. I sighed in relief, but as I started down the front stairs, I saw that it wasn't Christine.

Christine still hadn't returned, or called the hotel, by six thirty. Or by seven o'clock, I finally called the police.

Chapter Forty-Five Inspector Stride Busby from the Hamilton PD arrived at the Belmont Hotel around seven thirty. He was a small, balding man and from a distance he looked to be in his late fifties or sixties. As he approached the front porch, I could tell he was no more than forty, around the same age as me.

He listened to my story, then said that visitors often lost track of time and themselves in Bermuda. There were also occasional moped accidents on the Middle Road. He promised me that Christine would show up soon with a 'mild road rash', or a 'slightly turned ankle'.

I wouldn't have any of it. She was always punctual, or at the very least, she would have called.

I knew that somehow she'd call if she had a minor accident. So the inspector and I rode together between the hotel and Hamilton, and then we toured the streets of the capital city, particularly Front and Reid Streets. I was silent and solemn-faced as I stared out of the car, hoping to get a glimpse of Christine shopping on some side street, forgetful of the hour. But we didn't see her anywhere, and she still hadn't called the hotel.

When she hadn't turned up by nine, Inspector Busby reluctantly agreed that Christine might be missing. He asked a lot of questions that showed me he was a decent cop. He wanted to know if we'd had any kind of argument or disagreement.

'I'm a homicide detective in Washington, DC,' I finally told him. I'd been holding it back because I didn't want this to get territorial. 'I've been involved with high-profile cases involving mass murders in the past. I've known some very bad men. There might be a connection. I hope not, but that could be.'

'I see,' Busby said. He was such a precise, neat man, with his thin pencil mustache. He looked more like a fussy schoolteacher than a cop, more like a psychologist than I did. 'Are there any other surprises I should know about, Detective Cross?' he asked.

'No, that's it. But you see why I'm worried, and why I called you. I'm working on a series of nasty murders in Washington right now.'

'Yes, I see a reason for your concern now. I will put out a missing persons report forthwith.'

I sighed heavily, then went upstairs and talked to the kids and Nana, I tried my best not to alarm them, but Damon and Jannie started to cry. And then Nana did, too.

We had learned nothing more about Christine or her whereabouts by midnight. Inspector Busby finally left the hotel at quarter past twelve. He was kind actually, and considerate enough to give me his home number; he asked me to call right away if I heard from Christine. Then he said my family and I would be in his prayers.

At three, I was still up and pacing my hotel room on the third floor, and doing some praying myself. I had just gotten off the phone with Quantico. The FBI was cross checking all of my homicide cases to see if anyone I'd investigated had connections with Bermuda. They were concentrating on the current series of unsolved murders in Southeast. I'd faxed them my profile on the Weasel.

I didn't have any logical reason to suspect the killer might be here in Bermuda, and yet I feared that he might be. It was just the kind of feeling that the Jefe had been rejecting about the murders in Southeast.

I understood that the Bureau probably wouldn't get back to me until later in the morning. I was tempted to call friends at Interpol, but I held off... And then I called Interpol too.

The hotel room was filled with mahogany Queen Anne furniture and wicker, and had dusty-pink carpets. It felt empty, and lonely. I stood like a ghost before tall, water-stained dormer windows and stared out at shifting black shapes against the moonlit sky and remembered how Christine felt in my arms. I felt incredibly helpless and alone without her. I also couldn't believe this had happened.

I hugged myself tightly and became aware of an incredible pain all around my heart. The tightening pain was like a solid column that went from my chest all the way up into my head. I could see her face, her beautiful smile. I remembered dancing with her one night at the Rainbow Room in New York, and dinners at Kinkead's in Washington, and one special night at her place when we'd laughed and thought maybe we'd made a baby. Was Christine out there somewhere on the island? She had to be. I prayed again that she was safe. She had to be safe. I refused to have any other thought for more than a couple of seconds.

The telephone in the room rang, a short burst, at a little past four in the morning.

My heart was stuck in my throat. My skin crawled, felt as if it were shrinking and no longer fit my body. I rushed across the room and grabbed the phone before the second ring. My hand was trembling.

The strange, muffled voice scared me: 'You have e-mail.'

I couldn't think straight. I couldn't think at all.

I'd brought my laptop with me on vacation.

Who knew that I had my computer here? Who knew a small detail like that about me? Who had been watching me? Watching us?

I yanked open the closet door. I grabbed the computer, hooked it up, and logged on. I scrolled down the e-mail to the last message.

It was short and very concise.


The curt, cold message was worse than anything I could imagine. Each word was branded into my brain, repeating over and over.

She's safe for now.

We have her.

Book Three Eulogy CHAPTER Forty-Six Sampson arrived at the Belmont Hotel the day after Christine disappeared. I hurried down to the small front lobby to meet him. He threw his large arms around me, clasping me tightly, but gently, as if he were holding a child in his arms.

'You okay? You holding up?' he asked.

'Not even close.' I told him. 'I spent half a day checking the e-mail address I got last night. It came from curtain@mindspring.com. The address was falsified. Nothing is going right.'

'We'll get Christine back. We'll find her.' He muttered what he knew I wanted to hear, but I was sure that he truly believed it in his heart. Sampson is the most positive human being I've ever met. He won't be denied.

Thanks for coming. It means a lot to all of us. I can't think straight about anything. I'm really rattled, John. I can't even begin to imagine who could have done this. Maybe the Weasel. I don't know.'

'If you could think straight now,' John said, 'I'd be more worried about you than usual. That's why I'm here.'

'I kind of knew you'd come.'

'Of course you did. I'm Sampson. Occam's razor and all that deep philosophical shit at work here.'

There were a half-dozen guests in the hotel lobby and all of them looked our way. The hotel staff knew about Christine's disappearance, and I'm sure that the guests at the Belmont knew as well, as did just about everybody else on the small, chatty island.

'The story's on the front page of the local newspaper.' Sampson said. 'People were reading copies at the airport.'

I told him, 'Bermuda is small, mostly peaceful and orderly. The disappearance of a tourist, or any kind of violent crime, is unusual here. I don't know how the paper got the story so quickly. The leak must have come out of the police station.'

'Local police won't help us. Probably get in the way.' Sampson muttered as we walked over to the hotel registration desk. He signed in, then we trudged upstairs to show Nana and the kids that Uncle John was here.

Chapter Forty-Seven The following morning, the two of us met for hours with the police in Hamilton. They were professionals, but a kidnapping was a rarity for them. They let us set up in their station house on Front Street. I still couldn't concentrate or focus the way I needed to.

Bermuda is a twenty-one-square-mile island. While the British colony is small, we soon discovered that there are more than twelve hundred roads. Sampson and I split up and covered as much of the island as we possibly could. For the next two days we went from six in the morning until ten or eleven at night, without a break. I didn't want to stop, not even to sleep.

We didn't do any better than the locals, though. No one had seen anything. We'd reached a dead end. Christine had disappeared without a trace.

We were bone tired. After we finished at the station house on the third night, Sampson and I went for a late swim at Elbow Beach, just down the road from the hotel.

I had learned to swim at the municipal pool in DC. Nana had insisted that I learn. She was fifty-four at the time, and stubborn. She made up her mind to learn and took lessons from the Red Cross with us. The majority of people in Southeast didn't know how to swim back then, and she felt it was symbolic of the limiting inner-city experience.

So one summer, we all tackled swimming with Nana at the municipal pool. We went for lessons three mornings a week, and usually practiced an extra hour after that Nana herself was soon able to swim fifty or more laps. She had stamina, same as now. I rarely get into the water without flashing back to those fine summer days of my youth, when I became a reasonably good swimmer.

Now, Sampson and I floated on the calm surface, out about a hundred yards or so from shore. The sky above was the deepest shade of evening blue, sparkling with countless stars. I could see the curving white sand of the beach as it stretched several miles in either direction. Palm and casuarina trees shimmied in the sea breeze.

I felt devastated, totally overwhelmed as I floated on the sea. I kept seeing Christine with my eyes open or closed. I couldn't believe she was gone. I teared up as I thought about what had happened, the unfairness of life sometimes.

'You want to talk about the investigation? My thoughts so far? Little things I learned today? Or give it a rest for the night?' Sampson asked me as we floated peacefully on our backs. 'Talk? Or quiet time?'

'Talk, I guess. I can't think about anything else except Christine. I can't think straight. Say whatever you're thinking. Something bothering you in particular?'

'Little thing, but maybe it's important.'

I didn't say anything. I just let him go on.

'What puzzles me is the first newspaper stories.' Sampson paused and then continued. 'Busby says he didn't talk to anybody the first night. Not a single person, he claims, you didn't either. Story was in the morning edition, though.'

'It's a small island, John. I told you that and you've seen it yourself.'

But Sampson kept at it, and I began to think that maybe there was something in it.

'Listen, Alex, only you, Inspector Busby, and whoever took Christine knew. He called it in to the paper. The kidnapper did it himself. I talked to the girl at the paper who got the call. She wouldn't say anything yesterday, but she finally told me late today. She thought it was just a concerned citizen calling. I think somebody's playing with your head, Alex. Somebody's running a nasty game on you.'

We have her.

A game? What kind of nasty game? Who were the players? Was one of them the Weasel? Was it possible that he was still here in Bermuda?

Chapter Forty-Eight I couldn't sleep back at the hotel. I still couldn't concentrate or focus and it was incredibly frustrating. It was as if I were losing my mind.

A game? No, this wasn't a game. This was shock and horror. This was a living nighI'mare beyond anything I had ever experienced. Who could have done this to Christine? Why? Who was the Weasel?

Every time I closed my eyes, tried to sleep, I could see Christine's face, see her waving goodbye that final time on the Middle Road, see her walking through the hotel gardens with flowers in her hair.

I could hear Christine's voice all through the night -and then it was morning again. My guilt over what had happened to her had doubled, tripled.

Sampson and I continued to canvass Middle Road, Harbour Road, South Road. Every person we spoke to in the police and military believed that Christine didn't simply disappear on the island. Sampson and I heard the same song and dance every day for a week. No one -shopkeepers, taxi or bus drivers - had seen her in Hamilton or St George, so it was possible that she'd never arrived in either town that afternoon.

No one, not one witness remembered seeing her moped on the Middle or Harbour Roads, so maybe she never even got that far.

Most disturbing of all was that there hadn't been any further communication to me about her since the e-mail on the night she'd disappeared. The e-mail address was fake. Whoever had contacted me was a skillful hacker able to conceal their identity. The words I'd seen that night were always on my mind.

She's safe for now.

We have her.

Who was 'we'? And why wasn't there any further contact? What did they want from me? Did they know that they were driving me insane? Was that what they wanted to do? Did the 'Weasel' represent more killers than one? Suddenly that made a lot of sense to me.

Sampson returned to Washington on Sunday, and he took Nana and the kids with him. They didn't want to leave without me, but it was time for them to go. I couldn't make myself leave Bermuda yet. It would have felt as if I were abandoning Christine.

On Sunday night, Inspector Busby showed up at the Belmont Hotel around nine. He asked me to ride with him out past Southampton, about a six-mile drive that he said would take us twenty minutes or more. Bermudians measure distance in a straight line, but all the roads run in wiggles and half-circles, so it always takes longer to travel than you would think.

'What is it, Patrick? What's out in Southampton?' I asked as we rode along Middle Road. My heart was in my throat. He was scaring me with his silence.

'We haven't found Ms. Johnson. However, a man may have witnessed the abduction. I want you to hear his story. You decide for yourself. You're the big city detective, not me. You can ask whatever questions you like. Off the record, of course.'

The man's name was Perri Graham, and he was staying in a room at the Port Royal Golf club. We met him at his tiny apartment in the staff quarters. He was tall and painfully thin, with a longish goatee. He clearly wasn't happy to see Inspector Busby or me on his doorstep.

Busby had already told me that Graham was originally from London, and now worked as a porter and maintenance man at the semiprivate golf dub. He had also lived in New York City and Miami, and had a criminal record for selling crack in New York.

'I already told him everything I saw.' Perri Graham spoke defensively as soon as he opened the front door of his room and saw the two of us standing there. 'Go away. Let me be. Why would I hold back anything or--'

I cut him off. 'My name is Alex Cross. I'm a homicide detective from Washington. The woman you saw was my fianc‚e, Mr. Graham. May we come in and talk? This will only take a few minutes.'

He shook his head back and forth in frustration.

'I'll tell you what I know. Again,' he finally said, relenting. 'Yeah, come in. Only because you called me Mr. Graham.'

'That's all I want. I'm not here to bother you about anything else.'

Busby and I walked inside the room, which was little more than an alcove. The tile floors and all the furniture were strewn with wrinkled clothes, mostly underwear.

'A woman I know lives in Hamilton,' he said in a weary voice. 'I went to visit her this Tuesday past. We drank too much wine. Stayed the evening, you know how it is. I got up somehow. Had to be at the club by noon, but I knew I'd be late and get docked some of my pay. Don't have a car or nothing, so I hitched a ride from Hamilton, out South Shore Road. Walked along near Raget, I suppose. Damn hot afternoon, I remember. I went down to the water, cool off if I could. I came back up over a knobbly hill, and I witnessed an accident on the roadway. It was maybe a quarter of a mile down the big hill there. You know it?'

I nodded and held my breath as I listened to him. I remembered the stifling heat of that afternoon, everything about it. I could still see Christine driving off on a shiny blue moped, waving and smiling. The memory of her smile, which had always brought me such joy, now put a tight knot in my stomach.

'I saw a white van hit a woman riding a blue moped. I can't be sure, but it almost looked like the van hit her on purpose. Driver, he jumped out of the van right away and helped her up. She didn't look like she was hurt badly. Then he helped her inside the van. Put the moped inside, too. Then he drove off. I thought he was taking her to the hospital Thought nothing else of it.'

'You sure she wasn't badly hurt?' I asked.

'Not sure. But she got right up. She was able to stand all right.'

There was a catch in my voice when I spoke again. 'And you didn't tell anybody about the accident, not even when you saw the news stories?'

The man shook his head. 'Didn't see no stories. Don't bother with the local news much. Just small-time shit and worthless gossip. But then my girl, she keep talking about it. I didn't want to go to the police, but she made me do it, made me talk to this inspector here.'

'You know what kind of van it was?' I asked.

'White van. I think it was maybe a rented one. clean and new.'

'License plate?'

Graham shook his head. 'Don't have no idea.'

'What did the man in the van look like?' I asked him. 'Any little thing you remember is helpful, Mr. Graham. You've already helped a lot.'

He shrugged, but I could tell that he was trying to think back to that afternoon. 'Nothing special about him. Not as tall as you, but tall. Look like anybody else. Just a black man, like any other.'
Chapter Forty-Nine In a small apartment in a suburb of Washington called Mount Rainier, Detective Patsy Hampton lay in bed, restlessly flipping through the pages of the Post. She couldn't sleep, but there was nothing unusual about that. She often had trouble sleeping, ever since she'd been a little girl in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. Her mother said she must have a guilty conscience about something.

She watched a rerun episode of ER, then fetched herself a Stonyfield yogurt with blueberries and logged onto America Online. She had e-mail from her father, now relocated in Delray Beach, Florida; and also from an old college roommate from the University of Richmond, whom she had never been that close to anyway.

The roommate had just heard from a mutual friend that Patsy was a hotshot police detective in Washington, and what an exciting life she must lead. The roommate wrote that she had four children and lived in a suburb of Charlotte, North Carolina, but that she was bored with everything in her life. Patsy Hampton would have given anything to have just one child.

She wandered back to the kitchen and got a cold bottle of Evian mineral water. She was aware that her life had become ridiculous lately. She spent too much time on her job, but also too much time by herself in the apartment, especially weekends. It wasn't that she couldn't get dates - she was just turned off by men in general lately.

She still fantasized about finding someone compatible, having children. But increasingly, she thought about the depressing and maddening cycle of trying to meet someone interesting. She usually ended up with guys who were hopelessly boring or thirty-something jackasses who still acted like teenagers, though without the charm of youth. Hopeless, hopeless, hopeless, she thought as she sent off a cheery lie to her dad in Florida.

The phone rang and she glanced at her wristwatch - it was twenty past twelve.

She snatched up the receiver. 'Hampton speaking.'

'It's Chuck, Patsy. Really sorry to call so late. Is it okay? You awake?'

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