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Authors: James Patterson

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BOOK: The People vs. Alex Cross
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“Your Honor,” Anita said.

“One second, Counselor,” Judge Larch said. She stood up behind the bench and gazed down at Ali. “How did you figure this out, young man?”

Ali took off the sunglasses and said, “Um, when I couldn’t see anything from just looking at the videos, I figured I had to think about it in another way.”

Ali explained that he’d stopped watching the videos and started thinking how a gun could be there and yet not be there. He thought for almost a day before he remembered the holograms he’d seen on some of the rides in Disney World, and he started reading about holograms on the Internet.

“There was stuff about the photographic medium being clear and silicone-based, and the wave frequency of the lasers being the key. And I remembered the glue and silicone on the victims’ hands from the autopsy report and thought maybe the glue could have been to hold the film in place. But Dr. Rawlins figured it all out for real.”

“Just the details, no more,” Rawlins said with a bow toward Ali. “The kid had it nailed before he rang my bell.”

“Where did the film go?” Larch said.

Ali said, “I think after the shootings, after my dad went out to call for backup, someone stripped the holographic film from the victims’ hands and left with the cameraman who shot the video.”

“Objection,” Wills said. “This entire exercise is a clever and, I must admit, very creative stunt, but there’s nothing here that’s concrete. No holographic film has been introduced into evidence, so no testimony about holographic film should be allowed. Move to strike this entire line of questioning.”

“There’s evidence,” Ali said hotly. “That tiny blue light I
showed you. Someone had the laser on by mistake for four point seven seconds. And the silicone? And the glue? Were you even listening?”

Wills shot my son a contemptuous glance but didn’t answer.

Anita said, “Your Honor, the defense has given a plausible explanation for the apparent absence of the guns in the videos and for the glue residue and silicone found on the victims’ palms. Let the jury decide.”

For several long moments, the judge showed no reaction and made no response. She studied the top of the bench so long, I figured she was having some kind of fit. At last she said, “Overruled, Mr. Wills.”

“Judge Larch—”

“I said overruled, Mr. Wills. We’ll let the ladies and gentlemen of the jury decide which explanation they believe. Ms. Marley?”

“Move to dismiss.”

“Denied.”

“Move to suppress the testimony of Kimiko Binx and Claude Watkins.”

“Denied.”

Anita called Watkins back to the stand for his cross-examination, and he steadfastly maintained he’d had no holographic film on his hands at any time in his entire life.

“And yet glue and silicone were found on your hands after you were shot.”

Watkins snorted. “I’m a sculptor, and who knows what was on that factory floor to begin with.”

“But you wanted your encounter with Dr. Cross to be recorded. Were you trying to provoke him into shooting with the holograms?”

“I repeat, no holograms,” Watkins said firmly. “And, sure, I wanted to film him. I wanted to see how he’d handle himself, whether he’d revert to the mean of police behavior and go violent. But no one expected to get shot. Least of all me.”

“Do you hate Dr. Cross?”

“I hate the violence he stands for.”

“Enough to frame him?”

“Not enough to take a bullet in the guts and through the spine,” Watkins said. “That’s a fact. No one would wish this on themselves no matter how much they hated someone.”

“No further questions,” Anita said.

When Watkins had wheeled through the gate, Judge Larch said, “Ms. Marley?”

Anita glanced at me. I nodded.

She said, “The defense rests, Your Honor.”

CHAPTER
84

ANY COURT BUFF
will tell you that a quick verdict favors the prosecution. So after the jury heard closing arguments, received instructions, and were sequestered for deliberations, we treated every minute without word as a minor miracle. Hours passed. Then a day.

I tried not to think about the verdict but found that impossible. My case had dominated local news and was featured on national and cable news coverage. The talking heads babbled about Ali’s holographic demonstration, the presence of ecstasy in my blood the day of the shootings, and whether together they were enough to create reasonable doubt in the jurors’ minds.

A few were confident it would. But more sided with the prosecution, noting as Wills had in his closing argument that for the hologram theory to be true, the three victims had to have knowingly put themselves in harm’s way in order to frame me. He’d argued that it ran counter to
self-preservation, pointed at Claude Watkins in his wheelchair, and asked if anyone could believe he’d risk paralysis to see me in prison. Other commentators continued to hammer the fact that I’d been at the center of nine other officer-involved shootings in the course of my career, and they championed the idea that I should go to jail to set an example for police conduct across the nation.

At noon on Friday, I couldn’t take it anymore. I snuck out of the house and down the alley with my laptop. Sampson picked me up on Pennsylvania Avenue and we went to Quantico. Special Agent Batra met us at the gate, and before long we were in Rawlins’s underground lab.

“I don’t know if we are bugged or not,” Rawlins said, taking my computer. “Based on the fact we both uploaded the contents of that flash drive from the man posing as Alden Lindel, I’ve been digging in our system, but I haven’t come up with anything definitive yet.”

“This is a smaller universe,” I said.

Rawlins winked. “I see that.”

He’d kept his Mohawk down and black, but he’d added dark eye shadow, which made him look somewhat demonic as he plugged my laptop into a closed network. Rawlins ran a number of tests and still didn’t find anything. He decided to search uploads my computer had made recently over Wi-Fi or Bluetooth.

“There you are, you bugger,” he said, highlighting a file with a nonsense name and extension.

The date stamp said the upload from my laptop had taken place from 4:33 p.m. to 5:29 p.m. the prior Monday.

I thought about that and realized the time frame coincided with my hour with Annie Cassidy. The beginning and the end
of the session, when she’d been fooling around with her smartphone.

“That file was probably sent to her phone,” I said. “She must have been downloading it the entire time I was in session with her.”

“What’s in the file?” Batra said.

Rawlins clicked on the file, and it was quickly apparent that it contained a record of everything done on my computer for the previous fourteen days.

“Spying on us, the little roaches,” Rawlins said.

He analyzed the file further and discovered that it had been generated after an order from a piece of “elegant and ingeniously coded” malware Krazy Kat found buried deep inside my operating system and made to look like innocuous support code.

Once he had the malware identified, Rawlins searched for it on the FBI system and was shocked to find a copy sitting dormant on his own server.

“This is impressive,” he said, rubbing his chin. “I actively monitor for intrusions, and I never saw this. A deep, deep, deep Trojan horse, created by a master coder.”

“Can you figure out the coder’s identity?” I asked.

“I might. Give me that flash drive you got in the mail. We’ll launch it, see what happens.”

Before he did, Rawlins wrote tracking code designed to attach itself to any file the malware created. Then he plugged the drive into his server and launched it.

The mock firing-squad execution of Gretchen Lindel played, followed by the warning to me that the next time all the blondes would die. There was a screen flash before the video closed, just as there’d been when I uploaded it.

Rawlins stood there, drumming his fingers on his workstation, head swiveling as he studied the array of screens around him.

“C’mon,” he said. “Something happened there. Where are you?”

My cell phone buzzed. I took it out, saw Naomi was calling.

I answered. “Any news?”

My niece’s voice was strained. “The jury has contacted Larch.”

I closed my eyes, thinking,
Hung jury,
wondering whether my family could take another trial.

But then Naomi said, “They’ve reached a verdict, Uncle Alex. You need to come to the courthouse.”

CHAPTER
85

I TIGHTENED THE
knot on my tie in the car as Sampson turned the corner toward the courthouse. From two blocks away, we could see the media mob waiting, anxious, no doubt, because it was pushing four that Friday afternoon and they were right up against deadline for the East Coast evening news broadcasts.

“The offer’s still there to go in through the prisoner-transfer door,” Sampson said. “Chief okayed it.”

“No,” I said. “I want them to see me.”

I glanced over and saw Sampson rubbing at the scar on his forehead.

“You okay?”

“I will be when I take my meds,” he said, pulling up across the street from the courthouse and putting his hand on my forearm. “We’ll all be right behind you, no matter what happens.”

But instead of being encouraged by his support, I climbed from the squad car with my mind reeling through all the counterattacks the assistant U.S. attorneys had made in their closing
arguments, especially at our theory of the holographic gun images.

The glue could have come from their makeup, they said. The silicone came from something they’d all touched, probably the masks they wore or, as Watkins had suggested, the grime on the old factory floor. Wills had also hammered home how absurd it was to believe that two people would willingly die and another would willingly be wounded and crippled in order to frame me.

“Alex!”

Anita and Naomi were climbing out of a cab behind us.

“Let’s be as disciplined as we were on day one,” Anita said. “No one talks on the way into court.”

As we’d done the first day of the trial, we walked together toward the crush of cameras and klieg lights that flared and trained on us. The reporters’ shouting canceled out the protesters’ shouting, so all I really heard as we pushed on through the mob was a garbled roar of desperation and hatred.

Reaching the courthouse was a relief, but I felt distant going through security. I tried to focus on the officers wishing me luck, but I was thinking that my life as I knew it might be over in a matter of minutes and I’d be condemned to an eight-by-twelve, a target for every con who had it in for a cop.

My phone buzzed, alerting me to a text from Bree:
ETA five minutes! Love you! Believe in you!

But on the way up the elevator and walking toward Judge Larch’s courtroom, I felt hollow, separate, and alone.

Nana Mama was already there in the front row with Ali, Jannie, and my dad. I ignored everyone else gathered in the court and went to them. My grandmother took my hand and squeezed it.

There was so much fear and anxiety in my children’s faces that I had to fight to smile and say, “Be strong, now.”

“You too,” my father said. “We’ve been praying.”

I went to the defense table as nervous as I’d ever been in my entire life. I glanced past Anita and saw the prosecutor Nathan Wills fiddling with his phone. His assistant was looking down, studying a document.

Behind them sat Soneji’s son, Dylan Winslow, who had a smirk on his face. Kimiko Binx was perched beside him, dressed in black and shooting me dark glances. Claude Watkins was rolling his wheelchair down the aisle.

Before he parked beside Binx, he looked at me with open loathing, and in a voice loud enough for the reporters and other spectators to hear, he said, “You’re not getting away with this, Cross. If there’s any justice left in the world, you’re going down for a long time.”

Anita put her hand on mine. I didn’t need it. I wouldn’t give Watkins the satisfaction of reacting or replying.

“All rise,” the bailiff said. “Judge Priscilla Larch presiding.”

The judge looked better, far less pale than she’d been at closing arguments. Larch was wearing a new pair of glasses too, ones that made her seem less, well, birdy. She banged her gavel, called the court to order, and asked the bailiff to bring in the jury.

In the course of my career, I’ve sat in the cheap seats watching juries come back with verdicts at least fifty times. In every case, I’ve searched the faces of the jury members for clues to their decision, but I have been surprised by the outcome almost as often as I’ve been right in my predictions.

Juror five hobbled in. He looked tired and grim, as did several other jurors who filled the seats around him. The
remaining members of the panel appeared upset but resigned to the verdict.

Juror eleven, the PR executive, had been voted foreperson. She came in last, wearing a sharp blue suit with a pink blouse. She gave me a glance as she climbed into her seat in the jury box, swallowed hard, and looked away with such uncertainty that I was shaken inside.

“Madam Foreperson, have you reached a verdict?” Larch said.

Juror eleven stood. “We have, Your Honor.”

The judge accepted a copy of the verdict from the bailiff, opened it, and showed no reaction before saying, “Dr. Cross, please rise.”

As Anita, Naomi, and I got to our feet, I heard the courtroom doors open behind me. I glanced back and saw Bree and Damon rush to seats beside Sampson and his wife, Billie.

Everything felt surreal as I heard Larch say, “On count one, in the death of Virginia Winslow, murder in the first degree, how do you find?”

CHAPTER
86

JUROR ELEVEN WOULD
not look at me. No one in the jury would look at me.

“We find the defendant, Alex Cross,” she said as she finally turned her hard gaze my way, “not guilty.”

There were gasps, cheers, and a war whoop behind me. My knees went rubbery, and I almost started to cry when Nana Mama said, “I knew it!”

Naomi grabbed my left arm, Anita my right.

BOOK: The People vs. Alex Cross
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