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Authors: James Patterson

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BOOK: The People vs. Alex Cross
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Drummond disappeared. I helped Bree set the table, wondering how many more times we’d get to do this simple chore together. I opened a bottle of white wine and poured myself a generous glass.

Bree was watching me.

“One healthy one,” I said.

“You deserve two healthy ones.”

“Dinner’s on,” Nana Mama said, bringing a big iron skillet with a lid to the table. She set it on a lazy Susan. “Rice is coming. Where’s that Ali, now?”

Before I could reply, she left the kitchen and went to the bottom of the stairs. “Dinner, Ali! You don’t want dinner cold, you better come on down.”

“Two minutes,” my dad called. “He’s showing me something.”

My grandmother came back, muttering under her breath. She’d always been a stickler for us being at the table when she was ready to serve, and she had a sour expression on her face when she brought a big bowl of steaming jasmine rice in and sat down.

“Let’s say grace,” she said. “We don’t have to wait.”

When we were done thanking God for the meal, Nana Mama lifted the lid on the skillet. The smells that wafted up made me close my eyes and smile.

My grandmother said, “Tiger shrimp in fresh tomatoes, onions, garlic, and it’s-a-secret.”

“Mmm, Nana,” Jannie said after taking her first bite. “What is that?”

“That’s the secret,” she said, smiling. “Good, isn’t it, Alex?”

“Amazing,” I said, but my mind was elsewhere.

“You don’t sound very amazed,” Nana Mama said.

I set my fork down. “It’s delicious, Nana, really, but I think we all need to talk about what life will look like if I’m sent to prison.”

Nana Mama’s face fell. Bree grew distant. Jannie’s eyes welled with tears, and she said, “I don’t want to think about that, Dad. I—”

Ali came running into the kitchen. “Dad, you won’t believe it!”

My grandmother said, “Now is not a good time, Ali.”

My son stopped short. “But I—”

“Not now, Ali!” Jannie shouted, and she broke down in tears.

My father came in behind Ali and said to me, “You better listen to him, son.”

CHAPTER
77

LOOKING WEAK BUT
determined, Judge Larch rapped her gavel and called the court to order at nine the next morning. Bree and my dad sat behind me. I’d been up until three a.m., had slept fitfully, and was feeling fuzzy and on edge from two cups of high-test Brazilian coffee.

Larch stared down through her thick lenses and said in a restrained voice, “Ms. Marley, have your analysts examined the videos?”

Looking chagrined, Anita said, “They agreed that they have not been tampered with digitally. The defense has no further objection to the videos.”

The judge seemed disappointed. Assistant U.S. attorney Nathan Wills was stone-faced but nodding his head and jiggling his knee, probably already working on his closing arguments in his mind.

“Mr. Wills?” Larch said.

“A moment, Your Honor,” the prosecutor said, then he
leaned over to his assistant, Athena Carlisle, and whispered something in her ear.

Carlisle drew back with a startled expression and shook her head emphatically. Their conversation got heated, and then Wills stood up.

He glanced at his scowling assistant and threw back his shoulders, which thrust his belly forward against his starched white shirt.

“The People rest, Your Honor.”

That surprised me and it didn’t. According to the witness list Wills and Carlisle had provided, there were six or seven more people slated to appear, mostly to testify about ballistics and other basic crime scene evidence. But why bother when the videos were legitimate?

“Ms. Marley,” the judge said. “You’re up.”

Anita had evidently been half expecting the prosecution to rest as well, because without hesitation, she said, “Defense calls Kimiko Binx for cross.”

Binx came forward wearing black slacks, black pumps, a black blouse with a high collar, and costume pearls. I got the distinct feeling she was more concerned about her appearance than about facing the formidable Anita Marley.

“You’re still under oath, Ms. Binx,” Judge Larch said.

The web designer nodded and sat down with composure and poise.

Anita said, “Ms. Binx, did you alert Claude Watkins that you were on your way the day of the shootings? Call to tell him you were coming to the factory with my client?”

“No,” she said. “I don’t think so.”

Naomi handed Anita a plastic evidence bag. Anita took it over to Binx.

“Recognize this?” Anita said.

Binx frowned and took the bag, saw what it was. “It’s a SPOT.”

Anita looked to the jury. “A SPOT is a satellite personal tracker, a GPS device that tracks the wearer. Runners like Ms. Binx use them to plot their workout routes, isn’t that correct?”

Binx nodded. “And in cases of emergency, you can send an SOS signal.”

“There’s also a button that allows you to send a prepared text to people you list on the SPOT website, correct?”

“Um, I guess.”

“Actually, we looked at your account with SPOT, Ms. Binx,” Anita said. “On the day of the shootings, from your apartment and twenty minutes before you arrived at the factory, you pressed that button and sent a text to Claude Watkins that read ‘Game on.’”

“I don’t remember that,” Binx said, pushing back her hair. “And what does it matter?”

Anita smiled and said, “It shows premeditation, Ms. Binx.”

CHAPTER
78

BINX’S FACE FELL
, but she said, “Premeditation of what? Performance art?”

Anita did not answer. Instead, she said, “As I understand it, you were taken into custody after the shootings. Is that correct?”

“They let me go after they figured out the truth.”

“But you were booked, yes? Fingerprints. Cheek swabs. Photographed for your mug shot.”

“It was humiliating,” the witness said coldly. “I’d done nothing wrong.”

Anita returned to the defense table. Naomi handed her several thin files and a large sealed plastic bag. Anita handed one of the files to Wills and then went to the bench.

“The defense would like to introduce exhibits A, B, C, and D,” she said, handing Judge Larch a file. “Exhibit A includes chain-of-evidence documentation for cheek swabs taken from Ms. Binx by DC Metro Police shortly after the shootings.
Exhibit B documents the FBI’s chain of evidence following cheek swabs taken two days later from my client upon his arrest. Exhibits C and D include the results of tests of those swab samples that the defense requested from the FBI lab.”

“Genetic analysis?” Judge Larch said.

“Your Honor,” Wills said, rising. “This is the first we’ve heard of any swabs or lab analysis.”

“Not true,” Anita said. “My assistant found reference to the swabs in the materials you sent us during discovery, Mr. Wills. And no, Your Honor, we did not do genetic analysis. We had tests done on the saliva, not the cheek cells used for DNA testing.”

“I’ll admit the files,” Larch said.

“Your Honor,” Wills said.

The judge fixed the prosecutor with a withering stare, and I realized it was well past her usual time to recess for a puff or two. Wills was swimming in very dangerous waters.

“The reports are in, Mr. Wills,” Larch said. “Ms. Marley?”

Anita brought a copy over to Binx, handed it to the witness. “Can you look at page four of Dr. Cross’s saliva-test results, third line of the summary?”

Carlisle and Wills were frantically turning the pages of the report. Judge Larch was already studying her copy. Binx glanced up sharply at Anita.

“Can you read it out loud, please?” my attorney said.

Binx twisted uncomfortably, looking as if a lasso had been looped over her head and cinched snug beneath her rib cage.

In a dull monotone, she read, “‘Saliva tests detected the presence of methylenedioxymethamphetamine, MDMA, a hallucinatory drug also known as molly or ecstasy.’”

CHAPTER
79

ECSTASY. MOLLY.

I flashed back to that weird giddy state I was in when I entered the factory and how I’d screamed in an uncontrollable rage that I was going to kill every Soneji in sight. No wonder my emotions had been on a roller-coaster ride that entire day. No wonder I’d felt like hell for days afterward.

Anita pivoted from Binx to the jury and said, “MDMA. A euphoric, mind-altering drug. A drug that doctors say leaves the body at a fairly predictable rate based on dosage. Ms. Binx, what does line four of the summary say?”

Binx was clearly uncomfortable now but read, “‘Further tests indicate dosage of one hundred and forty milligrams or more of MDMA introduced to subject forty-two to forty-eight hours prior to the gathering of samples.’”

Anita said, “One hundred and forty milligrams of ecstasy taken forty-two to forty-eight hours before the saliva samples were taken. That is a six-hour time span that, if I’m not
mistaken, includes the two hours prior to the shootings when you were with Dr. Cross, Ms. Binx.”

I expected Wills to object. His assistant, Athena Carlisle, obviously expected the same thing because she glanced at her boss. When she saw he wasn’t moving, she stood up.

Carlisle said, “Your Honor, is Ms. Marley honestly laying the foundation for an insanity plea? Saying Dr. Cross was out of his mind at the time of the shooting because of ecstasy?”

“We are not, Your Honor,” Anita said hotly. “Dr. Cross is one of the sanest people I’ve ever known. I’m just setting the context for what Dr. Cross did or did not see that day.”

“Objection,” Wills said, standing beside his assistant. “Who’s testifying here, Ms. Marley or Ms. Binx?”

“Ms. Binx,” Anita said, and she returned to the witness box. “Can you look to page five of the report, the results of tests done on saliva samples taken from
you
several hours after the shootings? Lines three and four?”

Binx lowered her head and then shook it. “That’s not true.”

“The FBI says it is indeed true,” Anita said, and she looked to her own copy of the files. “Line four, quote, ‘Further tests indicate a dosage of a hundred and nineteen milligrams introduced to bloodstream four to six hours prior to the gathering of sample.’”

Binx said nothing.

“Did you ingest ecstasy earlier on the day of the shootings?” Anita asked.

Binx looked around warily. “That would be illegal, wouldn’t it?”

“Answer the question.”

Binx hesitated for several moments before straightening up in her chair and saying, “I refuse to answer on the grounds that it may incriminate me.”

That set off a hubbub in the courtroom. Larch gaveled for quiet.

Amused, Anita said, “You’re invoking the Fifth Amendment for taking ecstasy?”

“I didn’t say that,” Binx said.

“You kind of did.”

“Objection!” Carlisle cried.

“Sustained,” Larch said. “The jury will ignore that.”

Anita showed no reaction. “Ms. Binx, the morning of the shootings, after you came back from your run, do you remember tripping in your apartment and Dr. Cross catching you before you could fall?”

She hesitated, frowned. “No.”

“Yes, you tripped over an electrical cord. When Dr. Cross caught you, you put a piece of clear adhesive tape on the underside of his forearm, didn’t you?”

“Objection,” Wills said wearily. “Where is the foundation for this?”

Anita said, “Your Honor, Dr. Cross and his wife, DC chief of detectives Bree Stone, will testify that they found a piece of tape on the underside of Dr. Cross’s right forearm in the hours after the shootings. We believe that the ecstasy was on that tape in a gel or powdered form and that it was absorbed into Dr. Cross’s bloodstream transdermally, through the skin.”

“Where is this tainted tape?” the prosecutor said. “Render the body, Counselor.”

Anita ignored him, said to the judge, “Neither Dr. Cross nor Chief Stone thought much of it at the time, and they threw the tape out at GW Medical Center.”

Wills shook his head even more wearily. “Move to strike
everything Ms. Marley has said about this phantom piece of tape, Your Honor.”

“So moved,” Larch said.

“Your Honor—” Anita started.

“No tape, no talk about tape,” the judge said sharply.

Anita sighed, said, “Ms. Binx, did you dose Dr. Cross with ecstasy?”

Binx blinked, chewed on her lip, glanced at Wills, and then said again, “I refuse to answer on the grounds that it may incriminate me.”

CHAPTER
80

WHEN JUDGE LARCH
called for lunch recess and left the courtroom slowly, the prosecutors weren’t looking quite as confident as they had earlier.

Anita had asked Binx several more questions about the ecstasy, including how it was that she had been given the perfect dose of MDMA for her weight and how it was that I was given the perfect dose for mine.

Binx had replied to every question about the drug by taking the Fifth.

“Tripping on ecstasy doesn’t get your client off,” Wills said to Anita as she packed away some files.

“No?” she said. “Fortunately, a jury gets to make that decision.”

“No tainted tape, no causality. Even you can see that.”

Anita gave him a blank expression. “Save it for your close.”

Athena Carlisle said, “Given the videos, are you open to talking plea bargain? Dr. Cross might get out in time to meet his great-grandkids.”

Anita glanced at me. I shook my head.

Carlisle puffed her cheeks, then blew out air. “We tried.”

“Suit yourself,” Wills said, and he chuckled as he left. “But I hear it’s hell for an ex-cop in prison.”

Naomi, Bree, my dad, and I ate takeout pulled-pork sandwiches in a conference room. Even though Anita had scored big points with her cross-examination, we were a somber, focused bunch.

For the first time in a week I felt jurors five and eleven leaning a bit my way, or at least developing some skepticism regarding the prosecution’s case. But Wills had been right. The ecstasy might be a mitigating factor, but it wouldn’t be enough to acquit me of two murders and an attempted murder.

BOOK: The People vs. Alex Cross
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