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The Big Bad Wolf

By Miguel Reynolds,2014-11-04 20:11
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The Big Bad Wolf

    Alex Cross 9 - The Big Bad Wolf

    Alex Cross 9 - The Big Bad Wolf

    Alex Cross 9 - The Big Bad Wolf

    Alex Cross 9 - The Big Bad Wolf

    Part One THE “WHITE GIRL” CASE

    Alex Cross 9 - The Big Bad Wolf

    Chapter 1

    THE PHIPPS PLAZA shopping mall in Atlanta was a showy montage of pink-granite doors, sweepingbronze-trimmed staircases, gilded Napoleonic design, lighting that sparkled like halogenspotlights. A man and a woman watched the target, “Mom”, as she left Niketown with sneakersand whatnot for her three daughters packed under one arm.

    “She is very pretty. I see why the Wolf likes her. She reminds me of Claudia Schiffer,” saidthe male observer. “You see the resemblance?”

    Everybody reminds you of Claudia Schiffer, Slave Don’t lose her. Don’t lose your prettylittle Claudia or the Wolf will have you for breakfast.”

    The abduction team, the Couple, was dressed expensively, and that made it easy for them toblend in at Phipps Plaza, in the Buckhead section of Atlanta. At eleven in the morning, Phippswasn’t very crowded, and that could be a problem.

    It helped that their target was rushing about in a world of her own, a tight little cocoon ofmindless activity, buzzing in and out of Gucci, Caswell-Massey, Niketown, then Gapkids andParisian (to see her personal shopper, Gina), without paying the slightest attention to who was

     around her in any of the stores. She worked from an At-a-Glance leather-bound diary and madeher appointed rounds in a quick, efficient, practiced manner, buying faded jeans for Gwynne,a leather dop kit for Brendan, Nike diving watches for Meredith and Brigid. She even made anappointment at Carter-Barnes to get her hair done.

    The target had style and also a pleasant smile for the sales people who waited on her in theTony stores. She held doors for those coming up behind her, even men, who went out of theirway to thank the attractive blonde. “Mom” was sexy in the wholesome, clean-cut way of manyupscale American suburban women. And she did resemble the supermodel Claudia Schiffer. Thatwas her undoing.

    According to the job specs, Mrs. Elizabeth Connolly was the mother of three girls; she was agraduate of Vassar, class of 87, with what she called a degree in art history that ispractically worthless in the real world , whatever that is , but invaluable to me.” She’dbeen a reporter for the Washington Post and the Atlanta Journal-Constitution before she wasmarried. She was thirty-seven, though she didn’t look much more than thirty. She had her hairin a velvet barrette that morning, wore a short-sleeved turtleneck, a crocheted sweater,slim-fitting slacks. She was bright, religious, but sane about it, and tough when she neededto be, at least according to the specs.

    Well, she would need to be tough soon.

    Mrs. Elizabeth Connolly was about to be abducted.

    She had been purchased, and she was probably the most expensive item for sale that morning atPhipps Plaza.

    The price: $150,000.

    Alex Cross 9 - The Big Bad Wolf

    Chapter 2

    LIZZIE CONNOLLY FELT LIGHT-HEADED and she wondered if her quirky blood sugar was acting upagain.

    She made a mental note to pick up Trudie Styler’s cookbook, she kind of admired Trudie, whowas cofounder of the Rainforest Foundation as well as Sting’s wife. She seriously doubted shewould get through this day with her head still screwed on straight, not twisted around likethe poor little girl in The Exorcist. Linda Blair, wasn’t that the actress’s name? Lizziewas pretty sure it was. Oh, who cared? What difference did trivia make?

    What a merry-go-round today was going to be. First, it was Gwynne’s birthday, and the partyfor twenty-one of her closest school buddies, eleven girls, ten boys, was scheduled for oneo’clock at the house. Lizzie had rented a bouncy house, and she had already prepared lunchfor the children, not to mention for their moms or nannies. Lizzie had even rented a MisterSoftee ice-cream truck for three hours. But you never knew

    what to expect at these birthday gigs other than laughter, tears, thrills, and spills.

    After the birthday bash, Brigid had swimming lessons, and Merry had a trip to the dentistscheduled. Brendan, her husband of fourteen years, had left her a “short list” of his currentneeds. Of course everything was needed A.S.A.P.S. which meant as soon as possible,sweetheart.

    After she picked up a T-shirt with rhinestones for Gwynnie at Gapkids, all she had left to buywas Brendan’s replacement dop kit. Oh, yeah, and her hair appointment. And ten minutes withher savior at Parisian, Gina Sabellico.

    She kept her cool through the final stages, never let them see you sweat, then she hurried toher new Mercedes 320 station wagon, which was safely tucked in a corner on the P3 level of theunderground garage at Phipps. No time for her favorite rooibos tea at Teavana.

    Hardly anybody was in the garage on a Monday morning, but she nearly bumped into a man withlong dark hair. Lizzie smiled automatically at him, revealing perfect, recently whitened andbrightened teeth, warmth, and sexiness even when she didn’t want to show it.

    She wasn’t really paying attention to anyone, thinking ahead to the fast-approachingbirthday party, when a woman she passed suddenly grabbed her around the chest as if Lizziewere a running back for the Atlanta Falcons football team trying to pass through the “line ofspinach,” as her daughter Gwynne had once called it. The woman’s grip was like a vise shewas strong as hell.

    “What are you doing? Are you crazy?” Lizzie finally screamed her loudest, squirmed herhardest, dropped her shopping bags, heard something break. “Hey! Somebody, help! Get off ofme!”

    Then a second assailant, the BMW sweatshirt guy, grabbed her legs and held on tight, hurther, actually, as he brought her down onto the filthy, greasy parking-lot concrete along withthe woman. “Don’t kick me, bitch!” he yelled in her face. “Don’t you fucking dare kickme.”

    But Lizzie didn’t stop kicking

    or screaming either. “Help me. Somebody, help! Somebody, please!”

    Then both of them lifted her up in the air as if she weighed next to nothing. The man mumbledsomething to the woman. Not English. Middle European, maybe. Lizzie had a housekeeper fromSlovakia. Was there a connection?

    The woman attacker gripped her around the chest with one arm and used her free hand to pushaside tennis and golf stuff, hurriedly clearing a space in the back of the station wagon.

    Then Lizzie was roughly shoved inside her own car. A gauzy, foul-smelling cloth was pushedhard against her nose and mouth, and held there so tightly it hurt her teeth. She tasted blood.First blood, she thought. My blood. Adrenaline surged through her body, and she beganfighting back again with all her strength. Punching and kicking. She felt like a capturedanimal striking out for its freedom.

    “Easy,” the man said.” Easy-peasy-Japanesy . . . Elizabeth Connolly.”

    Elizabeth Connolly? They know me? How? Why? What is going on here?

    “You’re a very sexy mom,” said the man. “I see why the Wolf likes you.”

    Wolf? Who’s the Wolf? What was happening to her? Who did she know named Wolf?

    Then the thick, acrid fumes from the cloth overpowered Lizzie and she went lights out. Shewas driven away in the back of her station wagon.

    But only across the street to the Lenox Square Mall

    where Lizzie Connolly was transferred into a blue Dodge van that then sped away.

    Purchase complete.

    Alex Cross