Geoffrey Shafer, dashingly outfitted in a single-breasted blue blazer, white shirt, striped tie, and narrow gray trousers from H. Huntsman & Sons, walked out of his town house at seven-thirty in the morning and climbed into a black Jaguar XJ12.
He backed the Jag slowly out of the driveway, then stepped on the accelerator. The sleek sports car rocketed up to fifty before it reached the stop sign at Connecticut Avenue, in the posh Kalorama section of Washington, D.C.
When Shafer reached the busy intersection, he didn't stop. He floored the accelerator, picking up more speed. He was doing sixty-five and ached to crash the Jag into the stately fieldstone wall bordering the avenue. He aimed the Jag closer to the wall. He could see the head-on collision, visualize it, feel it all over.
At the last possible second, he tried to avoid the deadly crash. He spun the wheel hard to the left. The sports car fish-tailed all the way across the avenue, tires screeching and burning, the smell of rubber thick in the air.
The Jag skidded to a stop, headed the wrong way on the street, the windshield issuing its glossy black stare at a barrage of early oncoming traffic.
Shafer stepped on the accelerator again and headed forward against the oncoming traffic. Every car and truck began to honk loud, sustained blasts.
Shafer didn't even try to catch his breath or bearings. He sped along the avenue, gaining speed. He zoomed across Rock Creek Bridge and made a left, then another left onto Rock Creek Parkway.
A tiny scream of pain escaped from his lips. It was involuntary, coming swiftly and unexpectedly. A moment of fear, weakness.
He floored the gas pedal again, and the engine roared. He was doing seventy, then pressing to eighty. He zigged and zagged around slower-moving sedans, sport-utility vehicles, a soot-covered A&P delivery truck.
Only a few honked now. Other drivers on the parkway were terrified, scared out of their minds.
He exited the Rock Creek Parkway at fifty miles an hour, then he gunned it again.
P Street was even more crowded at that hour than the parkway had been. Washington was just waking up and setting off to work. He could still see that inviting stone wall on Connecticut. He shouldn't have stopped. He began searching for another rock-solid object, looking for something to hit very hard. He was doing eighty miles an hour as he approached Dupont Circle. He shot forward like a ground rocket. Two lines of traffic were backed up at a red light. No way out of this one, he thought. Nowhere to go left or right.
He didn't want to rear-end a dozen cars! That was no way to end thisend his lifeby smashing into a commonplace Chevy Caprice, a Honda Accord, a delivery truck.
He swerved violently to the left and veered into the lanes of traffic coming east, coming right at him. He could see the panicked, disbelieving faces behind the dusty, grime-smeared windshields. The horns started to blast, a high-pitched symphony of fear.
He ran the next light and just barely squeezed between an oncoming Jeep and a concrete-mixer truck.
He sped down M Street, then onto Pennsylvania Avenue, and headed toward Washington Circle. The George Washington University Medical Center was up aheada perfect ending.
The Metro patrol car appeared out of nowhere, its siren-bullhorn screaming in protest, its rotating beacon glittering, signaling for him to pull over. Shafer slowed down and pulled to the curb. The cop hurried to Shafer's car, his hand on his holster. He looked frightened and unsure.
"Get out of the car, sir," the cop said in a commanding voice. "Get out of the car right now."
Shafer suddenly felt calm and relaxed. There was no tension left in his body.
"All right. All right. I'm getting out. No problem."
© 1999 by James Patterson
Used by permission of the publisher, Little, Brown & Co.
Blood at the Root
"A gripping, timely, and important examination of American racism."
- PW Starred Review
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