Read From Potter's Field Online

Authors: Patricia Cornwell

Tags: #Fiction, #General, #Women Sleuths, #Mystery Fiction, #Mystery, #Mystery & Detective, #Suspense, #Thrillers, #Fiction - Espionage, #Thriller, #Women Physicians, #Scarpetta, #Medical, #Kay (Fictitious character), #Virginia, #Forensic pathologists, #Medical examiners (Law), #Medical novels

From Potter's Field (41 page)

BOOK: From Potter's Field
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'She took my gun,'1 said in amazement. 'She's gone out there. She's gone after Carrie!'


We loaded shotguns as fast as we could but did not take the time for vests. My hands were clumsy and cold.


'You've got to radio Wesley,' I said, frantic. 'You've got to do something to get them here.'


'You can't go out there alone,' Commander Penn said.


'I can't leave Lucy out there alone.' 'We'll both go. Here. Take a flashlight.' 'No. You get help. Get someone here.' I ran out not knowing what I would find. But the station was deserted. I stood perfectly still with the shotgun ready. I noticed the fixed camera bracketed to the green tile wall near the restrooms. The platform was empty, and I heard a train in the distance. It rushed by without pause because it did not have to stop at this station on Saturdays. Through windows I saw commuters sleeping, reading. Few seemed to notice the woman with a shotgun or even think it odd.


I wondered if Lucy could be in the bathroom, but that didn't make sense. There was a toilet just off the control room, inside our shelter where we had been all day. I walked closer to the platform as my heart pounded. The temperature was biting and I did not have my coat. My fingers were getting stiff around the stock of the gun.


It occurred to me with some relief that Lucy might have gone for help. Perhaps she shut the bathroom door and ran toward Second Avenue. But what if she hadn't? I stared at that shut door and did not want to go through it.


I walked closer, one slow step at a time, and wished I had a pistol. A shotgun was awkward in confined spaces and around corners. When I reached the door my heart was pounding in my throat. I grabbed the handle, yanked hard and thrust myself inside with the shotgun aimed. The area around the sink was blank. I did not hear a sound. I looked under the stalls and stopped breathing when I saw blue trousers and a pair of brown leather work boots that were too big to be a woman's. Metal clanked.


I racked the shotgun, shaking as I demanded, 'Come out with your hands in the air!'


A big wrench clanged to the tile floor. The maintenance man in his coveralls and coat looked as if he might have a heart attack when he emerged from the stall. His eyes bulged from his head as he stared at me and the shotgun.


I'm just fixing the toilet in here. I don't have any money,' he said in terror, hands straight up as if someone had just scored a touchdown.


'You're in the middle of a police operation,' I exclaimed, pointing the shotgun at the ceiling and pushing the safety on. 'You must get out of here now!'


He did not need the suggestion twice. He did not collect his tools or put the padlock back on the bathroom door. He fled up steps to the street as I began walking around the platform again. I located each of the cameras, wondering if Commander Penn saw me on the monitors. I was about to return to the control room when I looked down dark tracks and thought I heard voices. Suddenly there was scuffling and what sounded like a grunt. Lucy began to scream.


'No! No! Don't!'


A loud pop sounded like an explosion inside a metal drum. Sparks showered the darkness where the sound came from as the lights inside Bleecker Street station flickered.


Along the tracks there was no light, and I could not see because I did not dare turn on the one in my hand. I felt my way to a metal catwalk and carefully descended narrow stairs that led into the tunnel.


As I inched my way along, breathing rapid, shallow breaths, my eyes began to adjust. I could barely see the shapes of arches, rails and concrete places where the homeless made their beds. My feet hit trash and were loud when they knocked objects made of metal or glass.


I held the shotgun out in front to shield my head from any projection I might not see. I smelled filth and human waste, and flesh burning. The farther


I walked, the more intense the stench, and then a strong light rose loudly like a moon as a train appeared on northbound tracks. Temple Gault was no more than fifteen feet ahead of me.


He held Lucy in a choke hold, a knife at her throat. Not far from them Detective Maier was welded to the third rail of southbound tracks, hands and teeth clenched as electricity flowed through his dead body. The train screamed past, returning the darkness.


'Let her go,' my voice quavered as I turned on the flashlight.


Squinting, Gault shielded his face from the light. He was so pale he looked like an albino, and I could see small muscles and tendons in his bare hands as he held the steel dissecting knife he had stolen from me. In one quick motion he could cut Lucy's throat to her spine. She stared at me in frozen terror.


It's not her you want.' I stepped closer.


'Don't shine that light in my face,' he said. 'Set it down.'


I did not turn the flashlight off but slowly set it on a concrete ledge, where it cast an irregular light and shone directly on Detective Maier's burned, bloody head. I wondered why Gault did not tell me to put the shotgun down. Maybe he couldn't see it. I held it pointed up. I was no more than six feet from them now. Gault's lips were chapped and he sniffed loudly. He was emaciated and disheveled, and I wondered if he were high on crack or on his way down. He wore jeans and jungle boots and a black leather jacket that was scraped and ripped. In a lapel was the caduceus pin I imagined he had bought in Richmond several days before Christmas.


'She's no fun.' I could not stop my voice from trembling.


His terrible eyes seemed to focus as a thread of blood ran down Lucy's neck. I tightened my grip on the gun.


'Let her go. Then it's just you and me. I'm who you want.'


Light sparked in his eyes, and I could almost see their weird blue color in the incomplete dark. His hands suddenly moved, violently shoving Lucy toward the third rail, and I lunged for her. I grabbed her sweater, yanking her on top of me, and together we fell to the ground and the shotgun clattered. Fire popped and sparks flew as the greedy rail grabbed it.


Gault smiled, my Browning in hand as he tossed the knife out of his way for now. He snapped the slide back, gripping the pistol with both hands, pointing the barrel at Lucy's head. He was used to his Glock and did not seem to know that my Browning had a safety. He squeezed the trigger and nothing happened. He did not understand.


'Run!' I yelled to Lucy, pushing her. 'RUN!'


Gault cocked the gun, but it was already cocked, and no cartridge ejected, so now he had a double-feed. Enraged, he squeezed the trigger, but the pistol was jammed.


'RUN!' I screamed.


I was on the ground and did not try to get away because I did not believe he would go after Lucy if I stayed here. He was forcing the slide open, shaking the gun as Lucy began to cry, stumbling through the dark. The knife was close to the third rail, and I groped for it as a rat ran over my legs and I cut myself on broken glass. My head was dangerously close to Gault's boots.


He could not seem to fix the gun and then I saw him tense as he looked at me. I could feel his thought as I tightened my grip on the cold steel handle. I knew what he could do with his feet, and I could not reach his chest or a major vessel in his neck because there was not time. I was on my knees. I raised the knife as he got in position to kick and plunged the surgical blade into his upper thigh. With both hands I cut as much as I could as he shrieked.


Arterial blood squirted across my face as I pulled the knife out and his transected femoral artery hemorrhaged to the rhythm of his horrible heart. I ducked out of the way because I knew HRT would have him in their sights and were waiting.


'You stabbed me,' Gault said with childlike disbelief. Hunched over, he stared with shocked fascination at blood spurting between his fingers clutching his leg. 'It won't stop. You're a doctor. Make it stop.'


I looked at him. His head was shaved beneath his cap. I thought of his dead twin, of Lucy's neck. A sniper rifle cracked twice from inside the tunnel in the direction of the station, bullets pinged, and Gault fell close to the rail he had almost thrown Lucy on. A train was coming and I did not move him free of the tracks. I walked away and did not look back.


Lucy, Wesley and I left New York on Monday, and first the helicopter flew due east. We passed over cliffs and the mansions of Westchester, finally reaching that ragged, wretched island not found on any tourist map. A crumbling smokestack rose from the ruins of an old brick penitentiary. We circled Potter's Field while prisoners and their guards gazed up into an overcast morning.


The BellJet Ranger went as low as it could go, and I hoped nothing would force us to land. I did not want to be near the men from Rikers Island. Grave markers looked like white teeth protruding from patchy grass, and someone had fashioned a cross from rocks. A flatbed truck was parked near the open grave, and men were lifting out the new pine box.


They stopped to look up as we churned air with more force than the harsh winds they knew. Lucy and I were in the helicopter's backseat, holding hands. Prisoners, bundled for winter, did not wave. A rusting ferry swayed on the water, waiting to take the coffin into Manhattan for one last test. Gault's twin sister would cross the river today. Jayne, at last, would go home.




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