I hung up and ran out of the house in Woodbridge. I called Sampson in Washington and he picked up on the second ring.
"Everything okay there?" I gasped. "Everything's fine, Alex. No problems here. You don't sound too good, though. What's up? What happened?"
"He said he's coming for you and Nana and the kids," I told John. "The Mastermind."
"Not going to happen, sugar. Nobody will get past me. I hope to hell he tries."
"Be careful, John. I'm on my way back to Washington right now. Please be careful. He's crazy. He didn't just kill Betsey, he defiled her."
I ended the call with Sampson and I sprinted full-out toward my old Porsche.
The cell phone rang again before I got to the car.
"Cross," I answered, still running as I spoke, trying to steady the phone against my chin and ear.
It was him again. He was laughing maniacally. "You can relax, Dr. Cross. I can hear your labored breathing. I'm not going to hurt them tonight. I was just fucking with you. Having some fun at your expense.
"You're running, aren't you? Keep running, Dr. Cross. But you won't be fast enough. You can't get away from me. It's you I want. You're next, Dr. Cross."
THE CALIFORNIA MURDERS
UNITED STATES ARMY LIEUTENANT Martha Wiatt and her boyfriend, Sergeant Davis O'Hara, moved at a fast pace as the evening fog began to roll in like a sulfurous cloud across Golden Gate Park in San Francisco. The couple looked sleek, even beautiful, in the waning light of day. Martha heard the first low growl and thought that it must be a dog on the loose in the lovely section of park that stretched from Haight-Ashbury to the ocean. It came from far enough behind them that she wasn't worried.
"The Big Dawg!" she kidded Davis as they jogged up a steep hill that offered a stellar view of the stunning suspension bridge connecting San Francisco to Marin County.
"Big Dawg" was a pet expression they used for everything oversized from jetliners to sexual apparatus to very large canines.
Soon the thick fog would blanket the bridge and bay completely, but for now it was a gorgeous sight, incomparable, one of their favorite things in San Francisco.
"I love this run, that beautiful bridge, the sunset the whole ball of wax," Martha said in a steady, relaxed cadence.
"But enough bad poetry. It's time for me to kick your well-formed, athletic-looking butt, O'Hara."
"That sounds like cheap-shot female chauvinism to me," he grunted, but he was grinning, showing off some of the whitest teeth she had ever seen, or run her tongue across. Martha kicked her pace up a notch. She'd been a cross-country star at Pepperdine University and she was still in great shape. "And that sounds like the beginnings of a gracious loser's speech," she said.
"We'll see about that, won't we? Loser buys at the Abbey."
"I can already taste a Dos Equis. Mmm-mmm good." Suddenly the two runners' playful exchange was interrupted by a much louder growl. It was closer too. It didn't seem possible that a dog had covered so much ground so fast. Maybe there were a couple of Big Dawgs loose in the area.
"There aren't any cats in this park?" David asked. "I mean, like a mountain lion variety of cats?"
"No. Of course not. Get real, pal. We're in San Francisco, not the middle of Montana." Martha shook her head. Moisture jumped off her close-cropped reddish-brown hair. Then she thought she heard footsteps. A runner and a large dog?
"Let's get out of these woods, okay?" Davis asked.
"I hear you. I don't necessarily disagree. Last one to the parking lot is dog chow."
"Not funny, Lieutenant Martha. Bad joke. This is getting a little spooky."
Copyright © 2001 by James Patterson
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