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The Sleeping Doll, Page 2

Jeffery Deaver

  Then suddenly Pell's fury was replaced with a cold calm. He sat back, caught his breath and looked her over again. "You're in your thirties, Officer Dance. You're somewhat pretty. You seem straight to me, so I guarantee there's a man in your life. Or has been." A third glance at the pearl ring.

  "If you don't like my theory, Daniel, let's come up with another one. About what really happened to Robert Herron."

  As if she hadn't even spoken. "And you've got children, right? Sure, you do. I can see that. Tell me all about them. Tell me about the little ones. Close in age, and not too old, I'll bet."

  This unnerved her and she thought instantly of Maggie and Wes. But she struggled not to react. He doesn't know I have children, of course. He can't. But he acts as if he's certain. Was there something about my behavior he noted? Something that suggested to him that I'm a mother?

  They're studying you as hard as you're studying them. . . .

  "Listen to me, Daniel," she said smoothly, "an outburst isn't going to help anything."

  "I've got friends on the outside, you know. They owe me. They'd love to come visit you. Or hang with your husband and children. Yeah, it's a tough life being a cop. The little ones spend a lot of time alone, don't they? They'd probably love some friends to play with."

  Dance returned his gaze, never flinching. She asked, "Could you tell me about your relationship with that prisoner in Capitola?"

  "Yes, I could. But I won't." His emotionless words mocked her, suggesting that, for a professional interrogator, she'd phrased her question carelessly. In a soft voice he added, "I think it's time to go back to my cell."

  Chapter 2

  Alonzo "Sandy" Sandoval, the Monterey County prosecutor, was a handsome, round man with a thick head of black hair and an ample mustache. He sat in his office, two flights above the lockup, behind a desk littered with files. "Hi, Kathryn. So, our boy . . . Did he beat his breast and cry, 'Mea culpa'?"

  "Not exactly." Dance sat down, peered into the coffee cup she'd left on the desk forty-five minutes ago. Nondairy creamer scummed the surface. "I rate it as, oh, one of the least successful interrogations of all time."

  "You look shook, boss," said a short, wiry young man, with freckles and curly red hair, wearing jeans, a T-shirt and a plaid sports coat. TJ's outfit was unconventional for an investigative agent with the CBI--the most conservative law-enforcement agency in the Great Bear State--but so was pretty much everything else about him. Around thirty and single, TJ Scanlon lived in the hills of Carmel Valley, his house a ramshackle place that could have been a diorama in a counterculture museum depicting California life in the 1960s. TJ tended to work solo much of the time, surveillance and undercover, rather than pairing up with another CBI agent, which was the bureau's standard procedure. But Dance's regular partner was in Mexico on an extradition and TJ had jumped at the chance to help out and see the Son of Manson.

  "Not shook. Just curious." She explained how the interview had been going fine when, suddenly, Pell turned on her. Under TJ's skeptical gaze, she conceded, "Okay, I'm a little shook. I've been threatened before. But his were the worst kinds of threats."

  "Worst?" asked Juan Millar, a tall, dark-complexioned young detective with the Investigations Division of the MCSO--the Monterey County Sheriff's Office, which was headquartered not far from the courthouse.

  "Calm threats," Dance said.

  TJ filled in, "Cheerful threats. You know you're in trouble when they stop screaming and start whispering."

  The little ones spend a lot of time alone. . . .

  "What happened?" Sandoval asked, seemingly more concerned about the state of his case than threats against Dance.

  "When he denied knowing Herron, there was no stress reaction at all. It was only when I had him talking about police conspiracy that he started to exhibit aversion and negation. Some extremity movement too, deviating from his baseline."

  Kathryn Dance was often called a human lie detector, but that wasn't accurate; in reality she, like all successful kinesic analysts and interrogators, was a stress detector. This was the key to deception; once she spotted stress, she'd probe the topic that gave rise to it and dig until the subject broke.

  Kinesics experts identify several different types of stress individuals experience. The stress that arises primarily when someone isn't telling the whole truth is called "deception stress." But people also experience general stress, which occurs when they are merely uneasy or nervous, and has nothing to do with lying. It's what someone feels when, say, he's late for work, has to give a speech in public or is afraid of physical harm. Dance had found that different kinesic behaviors signal the two kinds of stress.

  She explained this and added, "My sense was that he'd lost control of the interview and couldn't get it back. So he went ballistic."

  "Even though what you were saying supported his defense?" Lanky Juan Millar absently scratched his left hand. In the fleshy Y between the index finger and thumb was a scar, the remnant of a removed gang tat.


  Then Dance's mind made one of its curious jumps. A to B to X. She couldn't explain how they happened. But she always paid attention. "Where was Robert Herron murdered?" She walked to a map of Monterey County on Sandoval's wall.

  "Here." The prosecutor touched an area in the yellow trapezoid.

  "And the well where they found the hammer and wallet?"

  "About here, make it."

  It was a quarter mile from the crime scene, in a residential area.

  Dance was staring at the map.

  She felt TJ's eyes on her. "What's wrong, boss?"

  "You have a picture of the well?" she asked.

  Sandoval dug in the file. "Juan's forensic people shot a lot of pics."

  "Crime scene boys love their toys," Millar said, the rhyme sounding odd from the mouth of such a Boy Scout. He gave a shy smile. "I heard that somewhere."

  The prosecutor produced a stack of color photographs, riffled through them until he found the ones he sought.

  Gazing at them, Dance asked TJ, "We ran a case there six, eight months ago, remember?"

  "The arson, sure. In that new housing development."

  Tapping the map, the spot where the well was located, Dance continued, "The development is still under construction. And that"--she nodded at a photograph--"is a hard-rock well."

  Everybody in the area knew that water was at such a premium in this part of California that hard-rock wells, with their low output and unreliable supply, were never used for agricultural irrigation, only for private homes.

  "Shit." Sandoval closed his eyes briefly. "Ten years ago, when Herron was killed, that was all farmland. The well wouldn't've been there then."

  "It wasn't there one year ago," Dance muttered. "That's why Pell was so stressed. I was getting close to the truth--somebody did get the hammer from his aunt's in Bakersfield and had a fake wallet made up, then planted them there recently. Only it wasn't to frame him."

  "Oh, no," TJ whispered.

  "What?" Millar asked, looking from one agent to the other.

  "Pell set the whole thing up himself," she said.

  "Why?" Sandoval asked.

  "Because he couldn't escape from Capitola." That facility, like Pelican Bay in the north of the state, was a high-tech superprison. "But he could from here."

  Kathryn Dance lunged for the phone.

  Chapter 3

  In a special holding cell--segregated from the other prisoners--Daniel Pell studied his cage and the corridor beyond, leading to the courthouse.

  To all appearances he was calm but his heart was in turmoil. The woman cop interviewing him had spooked him badly, with her calm green eyes behind those black-framed glasses, her unwavering voice. He hadn't expected somebody to get inside his mind so deeply or so fast. It was like she could read his thoughts.

  Kathryn Dance . .

  Pell turned back to Baxter, the guard, outside the cage. He was a decent hack, not like Pell's escort from Capitola, who was a burly
man, black and hard as ebony, now sitting silently at the far door, watching everything.

  "What I was saying," Pell now continued his conversation with Baxter. "Jesus helped me. I was up to three packs a day. And He took time outta His busy schedule to help me. I quit pretty much cold."

  "Could use some of that help," the hack confided.

  "I'll tell you," Pell confided, "smoking was harder to say good-bye to than the booze."

  "Tried the patch, thing you put on your arm. Wasn't so good. Maybe I'll pray for help tomorrow. The wife and I pray every morning."

  Pell wasn't surprised. He'd seen his lapel pin. It was in the shape of a fish. "Good for you."

  "I lost my car keys last week and we prayed for an hour. Jesus told me where they were. Now, Daniel, here's a thought: You'll be down here on trial days. You want, we could pray together."

  " 'Preciate that."

  Baxter's phone rang.

  An instant later an alarm brayed, painful to the ears. "The hell's going on?"

  The Capitola escort leapt to his feet.

  Just as a huge ball of fire filled the parking lot. The window in the back of the cell was barred but open, and a wad of flame shot through it. Black, greasy smoke streamed into the room. Pell dropped to the floor. He curled up into a ball. "My dear Lord."

  Baxter was frozen, staring at the boiling flames, engulfing the entire lot behind the courthouse. He grabbed the phone but the line must've been dead. He lifted his walkie-talkie and reported the fire. Daniel Pell lowered his head and began to mutter the Lord's Prayer.

  "Yo, Pell!"

  The con opened his eyes.

  The massive Capitola escort stood nearby, holding a Taser. He tossed leg shackles to Pell. "Put 'em on. We're going down that corridor, out the front door and into the van. You're--" More flames streamed into the cell. The three men cringed. Another car's gas tank had exploded. "You're going to stay right beside me. You understand?"

  "Yeah, sure. Let's go! Please!" He ratcheted on the shackles good and tight.

  Sweating, his voice cracking, Baxter said, "Whatta you think it is? Terrorists?"

  The Capitola escort ignored the panicked hack, eyes on Pell. "If you don't do 'xactly what I say you'll get fifty thousand volts up your ass." He pointed the Taser toward the prisoner. "And if it ain't convenient to carry you I will leave you to burn to death. Understand?"

  "Yessir. Let's go. Please. I don't want you or Mr. Baxter getting hurt 'causa me. I'll do whatever you want."

  "Open it," the escort barked to Baxter, who hit a button. With a buzz, the door eased outward. The three men started down the corridor, through another security door and then along a dim corridor, filling with smoke. The alarm was braying.

  But, wait, Pell thought. It was a second alarm--the first had sounded before the explosions outside. Had someone figured out what he was going to do?

  Kathryn Dance . . .

  Just as they passed a fire door Pell glanced back. Thick smoke was filling the corridor around them. He cried to Baxter, "No, it's too late. The whole building's going to go! Let's get out of here."

  "He's right." Baxter reached toward the alarm bar of the exit.

  The Capitola escort, perfectly calm, said firmly, "No. Out the front door to the prison van."

  "You're crazy!" Pell snapped. "For the love of God. We'll die." He shoved the fire door open.

  The men were hit with a blast of fierce heat, smoke and sparks. Outside a wall of fire consumed cars and shrubbery and trash cans. Pell dropped to his knees, covering his face. He screamed, "My eyes . . . It hurts!"

  "Pell, goddamn it--" The escort stepped forward, lifting the Taser.

  "Put that down. He's not going anywhere," Baxter said angrily. "He's hurt."

  "I can't see," Pell moaned. "Somebody help me!"

  Baxter turned toward him, bent down.

  "Don't!" the escort shouted.

  Then the county hack staggered backward, a bewildered expression on his face, as Pell repeatedly shoved a filleting knife into his belly and chest. Bleeding in cascades, Baxter fell to his knees, trying for the pepper spray. Pell grabbed his shoulders and spun him around as the huge escort fired the Taser. It discharged but the probes went wide.

  Pell shoved Baxter aside and leapt at the escort, the useless Taser falling to the floor.

  The big man froze, staring at the knife. Pell's blue eyes studied his sweaty black face.

  "Don't do it, Daniel."

  Pell moved in.

  The escort's massive fists balled up.

  No point in talking. Those who were in control didn't need to humiliate or threaten or quip. Pell charged forward, dodging the man's blows, and struck him hard a dozen times, the knife edge facing out and extending downward from the bottom of his clenched right hand. Punching was the most effective way to use a knife against a strong opponent willing to fight back.

  His face contorting, the escort fell to his side, kicking. He gripped his chest and throat. A moment later he stopped moving. Pell grabbed the keys and undid the restraints.

  Baxter was crawling away, still trying to get his Mace out of his holster with blood-slicked fingers. His eyes grew wide as Pell approached. "Please. Don't do anything to me. I was just doing my job. We're both good Christians! I treated you kind. I--"

  Pell grabbed him by the hair. He was tempted to say, You wasted God's time praying for your car keys?

  But you never humiliated or threatened or quipped. Pell bent down and efficiently cut his throat.

  When Baxter was dead, Pell stepped to the door again. He covered his eyes and grabbed the metallic fireproof bag, where he'd gotten the knife, just outside the door.

  He was reaching inside again when he felt the gun muzzle at his neck.

  "Don't move."

  Pell froze.

  "Drop the knife."

  A moment's debate. The gun was steady; Pell sensed that whoever held it was ready to pull the trigger. His hissed a sigh. The knife clattered to the floor. He glanced at the man, a young Latino plainclothes officer, eyes on Pell, holding a radio.

  "This's Juan Millar. Kathryn, you there?"

  "Go ahead," the woman's voice clattered.

  Kathryn . . .

  "I'm eleven-nine-nine, immediate assistance, at the fire door, ground floor, just outside the lockup. I've got two guards down. Hurt bad. Nine-four-five, requesting ambulance. Repeat, I'm eleven-nine--"

  At that moment the gas tank of the car nearest the door exploded; a flare of orange flame shot through the doorway.

  The officer ducked.

  Pell didn't. His beard flared, flames licked his cheek, but he stood his ground.

  Hold fast . . .

  Chapter 4

  Kathryn Dance was calling on a Motorola, "Juan, where's Pell? . . . Juan, respond. What's going on down there?"

  No answer.

  An eleven-nine-nine was a Highway Patrol code--though one that all California law enforcers knew. It meant an officer needed immediate assistance.

  And yet no response after his transmission.

  The courthouse security chief, a grizzled, crew-cut retired cop, stuck his head into the office. "Who's running the search? Who's in charge?"

  Sandoval glanced at Dance. "You're senior."

  Dance had never encountered a situation like this--a firebomb and an escape by a killer like Daniel Pell--but, then, she didn't know of anybody on the Peninsula who had. She could coordinate efforts until somebody from MCSO or the Highway Patrol took over. It was vital to move fast and decisively.

  "Okay," she said. And instructed the security chief to get other guards downstairs immediately and to the doors where people were exiting.

  Screams outside. People running in the corridor. Radio messages flying back and forth.

  "Look," TJ said, nodding toward the window, where black smoke obscured the view completely. "Oh, man."

  Despite the fire, which might be raging inside now, Kathryn Dance decided to remain in Alonzo Sandoval's office. She wo
uldn't waste time by relocating or evacuating. If the building was engulfed they could jump out of the windows to the roofs of cars parked in the front lot, ten feet below. She tried Juan Millar again--there was no answer on his phone or radio--then said to the security chief, "We need a room-by-room search of the building."

  "Yes, ma'am." He trotted off.

  "And in case he gets out, I want roadblocks," Dance said to TJ. She pulled off her jacket, tossed it over a chair. Sweat stains were blossoming under the arms. "Here, here, here . . ." Her short nails tapped loudly on the laminated map of Salinas.

  Gazing at the places she was indicating, TJ made calls to the Highway Patrol--California's state police--and the MCSO.

  Sandoval, the prosecutor--grim and dazed--stared at the smoky parking lot too. Flashing lights reflected in the window. He said nothing. More reports came in. No sign of Pell in the building or outside.

  None of Juan Millar either.

  The courthouse security chief returned a few minutes later, his face smudged. He was coughing hard. "Fire's under control. Limited pretty much to outside." He added shakily, "But, Sandy . . . I've gotta tell you, Jim Baxter's dead. So's the Capitola guard. Stabbed. Pell got a knife somehow, looks like."

  "No," Sandoval whispered. "Oh, no."

  "And Millar?" Dance asked.

  "We can't find him. Might be a hostage. We found a radio. Assume it's his. But we can't figure out where Pell went. Somebody opened the back fire door but there were flames everywhere until just a few minutes ago. He couldn't've gotten out that way. The only other choice is through the building and he'd be spotted in a minute in his prison overalls."

  "Unless he's dressed in Millar's suit," Dance said.

  TJ looked at her uneasily; they both knew the implications of that scenario.

  "Get word to everybody that he might be in a dark suit, white shirt." Millar was much taller than Pell. She added, "The pants cuffs'd be rolled up."

  The chief hit transmit on his radio and sent out the message.

  Looking up from his phone, TJ called, "Monterey's getting cars in place." He gestured toward the map. "CHP's scrambled a half dozen cruisers and cycles. They should have the main highways sealed in fifteen minutes."

  It worked to their advantage that Salinas wasn't a huge town--only about 150,000--and was an agricultural center (its nickname was the "Nation's Salad Bowl"). Lettuce, berry, Brussels sprout, spinach and artichoke fields covered most of the surrounding area, which meant that there were limited highways and roads by which he could escape. And on foot, Pell would be very visible in the fields of low crops.