IT WAS A PERFECT, blue-skied morning in Washington - well, almost perfect. The Mastermind was on my cell phone. "Hello, Alex. Did you miss me? I missed you, partner." The bastard had been making obscene, threatening phone calls to me every morning for over a week. Sometimes he just cursed at me for several minutes; this morning he sounded positively civil.
"What's your day look like? Any big plans?" he asked. Actually, yes I was planning to catch him. I was inside an FBI van that was already on the move. We were tracing his call and expected to have the exact location very soon. A court order had been put through the FBI, and the phone company was involved in "trapping" the call. I was in the rear of the speeding van with three Bureau agents and also my partner, John Sampson. We had left my house on Fifth Street as soon as the call came in; we were heading onto I-395 North. My job was to keep him on the line until the trace was completed.
"Tell me about Betsey Cavalierre. Why did you pick her instead of me?" I asked him.
"Oh, she's much, much prettier," the Mastermind said. "More fuckable."
One of the techie agents was talking in the background. I tried to listen to both conversations. The agent said, "He's living up to his name. We've got a wiretap and should be able to trace this call immediately. It isn't happening for some reason."
"Why the hell not?" Sampson asked, and moved closer to the agents.
"Don't know exactly. We're picking up different locations, but they keep changing. Maybe he's on a cell phone in a car. Cell phones are harder to trace."
I could see that we were getting off the D Street exit. Then we headed into the Third Street tunnel. Where was he?
"Everything all right, Alex? You seem a little distracted," the Mastermind said.
"No, I'm right here with you. Partner. Enjoying our little breakfast club."
"I don't know why this is so goddamn hard," the FBI techie complained.
Because he's the Mastermind, I wanted to yell at him.
I saw the Washington Convention Center on the right. The van was really clipping along, doing sixty or seventy on the city streets.
We passed the Renaissance Hotel. Where the hell was the Mastermind calling from?
"I think we have a fix on him. We're real close," one of the young agents said in an excited voice.
The FBI van stopped, and suddenly it was chaos inside. Sampson and I pulled out our guns. We had him. I couldn't believe we had him.
Then everyone inside the van groaned and cursed. I looked outside and saw why. I shook my head in disgust.
"Jesus Christ, do you believe this shit!" Sampson yelled, and pounded the wall of the van. We were at 935 Pennsylvania Avenue, the J. Edgar Hoover Building, which is FBI headquarters.
"What's happening now?" I asked the agent in charge.
"Where the hell is he?"
"Shit, the signal is roaming again. It's moving outside Washington. Okay, now it's back in the city. Christ, the signal just skipped out of the country."
"Good bye, Alex. For now, anyway. As I told you before, you're next," the Mastermind said, and then he hung up on me.
THE REST OF MY DAY was long, hard, and depressing. More than anything, I needed a break from the Mastermind.
I'm not exactly sure when or where or how I had gotten up the nerve, but I had a date that night. It was with a lawyer for the D.A.'s office here in Washington. Elizabeth Moore was wickedly funny and nicely irreverent. She was a large woman with a really sweet smile that made me smile. We were having dinner at Marcel's in Foggy Bottom, which is a good spot for this kind of thing. The food is French, with a Flemish flair. The night couldn't have been going any better. I thought so, and I was pretty sure that Elizabeth would agree.
Copyright © 2001 by James Patterson
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