Authors: James Patterson
“You look like absolute hell,” he said. “Relatively speaking, of course.”
The young woman was gagged with wet cloths and couldn’t answer back, but she glared at him. Her dark-brown eyes showed fear
and pain, but he could still see the stubbornness and spunk there.
He took out his black carrying bag first, then he roughly lifted her one hundred twelve pounds out of the car. He made no
effort to be gentle at this point.
“You’re welcome,” he said as he put her down. “Forgotten our manners, have we?” Her legs were shaky and she almost fell, but
Casanova held her up easily with one hand.
She had on dark green Wake Forest University running shorts, a white tank top, and brand-new Nike cross-training shoes. She
was a typical spoiled college brat, he knew, but achingly beautiful. Her slender ankles were bound with a leather thong that
stretched about two and a half feet. Her hands were tied behind her back, also with a leather thong.
“You can just walk ahead of me. Go straight unless I tell you otherwise. Now
” he ordered. “Move those long, lovely gams. Hut, hut, hut.”
They started through the dense woods that got even thicker as they moved slowly along. Thicker and darker. Creepier and creepier.
He swung his black bag as if he were a child carrying a lunch box. He loved the dark woods. Always had.
Casanova was tall and athletic, well built, and good-looking. He knew that he could have many women, but not the way he wanted
them. Not like this.
“I asked you to listen, didn’t I? You wouldn’t listen.” He spoke in a soft, detached voice. “I told you the house rules. But
you wanted to be a wiseass. So be a wiseass. Reap the rewards.”
As the young woman struggled ahead she became increasingly afraid, close to panic. The woods were even denser now, and the
low-hanging branches clawed at her bare arms, leaving long scratches. She knew her captor’s name: Casanova. He fancied himself
a great lover, and in fact he could maintain an erection longer than any man she had ever known. He had always seemed rational
and in control of himself, but she knew he
had to be
crazy. He certainly could act sane on occasion, though. Once you accepted a single premise of his, something he had said
to her several times:
“Man was born to hunt… women.”
He had given her the rules of his house. He had clearly warned her to behave. She just hadn’t listened. She’d been willful
and stupid and had made a huge, tactical mistake.
She tried not to think of what he was going to do to her out here in these bewildering Twilight Zone-type woods. It would
surely give her a heart attack. She wouldn’t give him the satisfaction of seeing her break down and cry.
If only he would ungag her. Her mouth was dry, and she was thirsty beyond belief. Perhaps she could actually talk her way
out of this—of whatever it was that he had planned.
She stopped walking and turned to face him. It was draw-a-line-in-the-sand time.
“You want to stop here? That’s fine with me. I’m not going to let you talk, though. No last words, dear heart. No reprieve
from the governor. You blew it big time. If we stop here, you
may not like it.
If you want to walk some more, that’s fine, too. I just love these woods, don’t you?”
She had to talk to him, get through to him somehow. Ask him
Maybe appeal to his intelligence. She tried to say his name, but only muffled sounds made it through the damp gag.
He was self-assured and even calmer than usual. He walked with a cocky swagger. “I don’t understand a word you’re saying.
Anyway, it wouldn’t change a thing even if I did.”
He had on one of the weird masks that he always wore. This one was actually called a death mask, he’d told her, and it was
used to reconstruct faces, usually at hospitals and morgues.
The skin color of the death mask was almost perfect and the detail was frighteningly realistic. The face he’d chosen was young
and handsome, an all-American type. She wondered what he really looked like. Who in hell was he? Why did he wear masks?
She would escape somehow,
she told herself. Then she would get him locked up for a thousand years. No death penalty—let him suffer.
“If that’s your choice, fine,” he said, and he suddenly kicked her feet out from under her. She fell down hard on her back.
“You die right here.”
He slid a needle out of the well-worn black medical bag he’d brought with him. He brandished it like a tiny sword. Let her
“This needle is called a Tubex,” he said. “It’s pre-loaded with thiopental sodium, which is a barbiturate. Does barbiturate-sounding
things.” He squeezed out a thin squirt of the brown liquid. It looked like iced tea, and it was not something she wanted injected
into her veins.
“What does it do? What are you doing to me?”
she screamed into the tight gag.
“Please take this gag out of my mouth.”
She was covered with sweat, and her breathing was labored. Her whole body felt stiff, anesthetized and numb. Why was he giving
her a barbiturate?
“If I do this wrong, you’ll die right now,” he told her. “So
She shook her head affirmatively. She was trying so hard to let him know that she could be good; she could be so very good.
Please don’t kill me,
she silently pleaded.
Don’t do this.
He pricked a vein in the crook of her elbow, and she could feel the painful pinch there.
“I don’t want to leave any unsightly bruises,” he whispered. “It won’t take long. Ten, nine, eight, seven, six,
five, you, are, so, beautiful,
zero. All finished.”
She was crying now. She couldn’t help it. The tears were streaming down her cheeks. He was crazy. She squeezed her eyes shut,
couldn’t look at him anymore.
Please, God, don’t let me die like this,
Not all alone out here.
The drug acted quickly, almost immediately. She felt warm all over, warm and sleepy. She went limp.
He took off her tank top and began to fondle her breasts, like a juggler with several balls. There was nothing she could do
to stop him.
He arranged her legs as if she were his art, his human sculpture, stretching the leather thong as far as it would go. He felt
down between her legs. The sudden thrust made her open her eyes, and she stared up at the horrible mask. His eyes stared back
at her. They were blank and emotionless, yet strangely penetrating.
He entered her, and she felt a jolt like a very powerful electric shock running through her body. He was very hard, fully
aroused already. He was probing inside her as she was dying from the barbiturate. He was watching her die. That’s what this
was all about.
Her body wriggled, bolted, shook. As weak as she was, she tried to scream.
No, please, please, please. Don’t do this to me.
Mercifully, blackness came over her.
She didn’t know how long she’d been unconscious. Didn’t care. She woke up and she was still alive.
She started to cry, and the muffled sounds coming through the gag were agonizing. Tears ran down her cheeks. She realized
how much she wanted to live.
She noticed that she’d been moved. Her arms were behind her and tied around a tree. Her legs were crossed and bound, and she
was still tightly gagged. He had taken off her clothes. She didn’t see her clothes anywhere.
He was still there!
“I don’t really care if you scream,” he said. “There’s absolutely nobody to hear you out here.” His eyes gleamed out of the
lifelike mask. “I just don’t want you to scare away the hungry birds and animals.” He glanced briefly at her truly beautiful
body. “Too bad you disobeyed me, broke the rules,” he said.
He took off the mask and let her see his face for the first time. He fixed the image of her face in his mind. Then he bent
down and kissed her on the lips.
Kiss the girls.
Finally, he walked away.
OST OF my rage had been spent on the furious footrace to St. Anthony’s with Marcus Daniels cradled in my arms. The adrenaline
rush was gone now, but I felt an unnatural weariness.
The emergency-room waiting area was noise and frustrated confusion. Babies crying, parents wailing out their grief, the PA
incessantly paging doctors. A bleeding man kept muttering, “Ho shit, ho shit.”
I could still
the beautiful, sad eyes of Marcus Daniels. I could still
his soft voice.
At a little past six-thirty that night, my partner in crime arrived unexpectedly at the hospital. Something about that struck
me as wrong, but I let it pass for now.
John Sampson and I have been best friends since we were both ten years old and running these same streets in D.C. Southeast.
Somehow, we survived without having our throats slashed. I dirfted into abnormal psychology, and eventually got a doctorate
at Johns Hopkins. Sampson went into the army. In some strange and mysterious manner, we both ended up working together on
the D.C. police force.
I was sitting on a sheetless gurney parked outside the Trauma Room. Next to me was the “crash cart” they had used for Marcus.
Rubber tourniquets hung like streamers from the black handles of the cart.
“How’s the boy?” Sampson asked. He knew about Marcus already. Somehow, he always knew. The rain was running down his black
poncho in little streams, but he didn’t seem to care.
I sadly shook my head. I was still feeling wasted. “Don’t know yet. They won’t tell me anything. Doctor wanted to know if
I was next of kin. They took him to Trauma. He cut himself real bad. So what brings you to happy hour?”
Sampson shrugged his way out of his poncho, and flopped down beside me on the straining gurney. Under the poncho, he had on
one of his typical street-detective outfits: silver-and-red Nike sweatsuit, matching high-topped sneakers, thin gold bracelets,
signet rings. His street look was intact.
“Where’s your gold tooth?” I managed a smile. “You need a gold tooth to complete your fly ensemble. At least a gold star on
one tooth. Maybe some corn braids?”
Sampson snorted out a laugh. “I heard. I came,” he said offhandedly about his appearance at St. Anthony’s. “You okay? You
look like the last of the big, bad bull elephants.”
“Little boy tried to kill himself. Sweet little boy, like Damon. Eleven years old.”
“Want me to run over to their crack crib? Shoot the boy’s parents?” Sampson asked. His eyes were obisdian-hard.
“We’ll do it later,” I said.
I was probably in the mood. The positive news was that the parents of Marcus Daniels lived together; the bad part was that
they kept the boy and his four sisters in the crack house they ran near the Langley Terrace projects. The ages of the children
ranged from five to twelve, and all the kids worked in the business. They were “runners.”
you doing here?” I asked him for the second time. “You didn’t just happen to show up here at St. A’s. What’s up?”
Sampson tapped out a cigarette from a pack of Camels. He used only one hand. Very cool. He lit up. Doctors and nurses were
I snatched the cigarette away and crushed it under my black Converse sneaker sole, near the hole in the big toe.
“Feel better now?” Sampson eyed me. Then he gave me a broad grin showing his large white teeth. The skit was over. Sampson
had worked his magic on me, and it
magic, including the cigarette trick. I was feeling better. Skits work. Actually, I felt as if I’d just been hugged by about
a half-dozen close relatives and both my kids. Sampson is my best friend for a reason. He can push my buttons better than
“Here comes the angel of mercy,” he said, pointing down the long, chaotic corridor.
Annie Waters was walking toward us with her hands thrust deeply into the pockets of her hospital coat. She had a tight look
on her face, but she always does.
“I’m real sorry, Alex. The boy didn’t make it. I think he was nearly gone when you got him here. Probably living on all that
hope you carry bottled up inside you.”
Powerful images and visceral sensations of carrying Marcus along Fifth and L streets flashed before me. I imagined the hospital
death sheet covering Marcus. It’s such a small sheet that they use for children.
“The boy was my patient. He adopted me this spring.” I told the two of them what had me so wild and crazed and suddenly depressed.
“Can I get you something, Alex?” said Annie Waters. She had a concerned look on her face.
I shook my head. I had to talk, had to get this out right now.
“Marcus found out I gave help at St. A’s, talked to people sometimes. He started coming by the trailer afternoons. Once I
passed his tests, he talked about his life at the crack house. Everybody he knew in his life was a junkie. Junkie came by
my house today… Rita Washington. Not Marcus’s mother, not his father. The boy tried to slit his own throat, slit his wrists.
Just eleven years old.”
My eyes were wet. A little boy dies, somebody should cry. The psychologist for an eleven-year-old suicide victim ought to
mourn. I thought so, anyway.
Sampson finally stood up and put his long arm gently on my shoulder. He was six feet nine again. “Let’s head on home, Alex,”
he said. “C’mon, my man. Time to go.”
I went in and looked at Marcus for the last time.
I held his lifeless little hand and thought about the talks the two of us had, the ineffable sadness always in his brown eyes.
I remembered a wise, beautiful African proverb:
“It takes a whole village to raise a good child.”
Finally, Sampson came and took me away from the boy, took me home.
Where it got much worse.
DIDN’T like what I saw at home. A lot of cars were crowded helter-skelter around my house. It’s a white shingle A-frame;
it looks like anybody’s house. Most of the cars appeared familiar; they were cars of friends and family members.