Five years after escaping into the mountains of North Carolina, Eric Rudolph was becoming a figure of folk legend. The FBI had long since abandoned its manhunt—the largest ever on U.S. soil—for the fugitive accused of bombing the Atlanta Olympics, two abortion clinics, and a gay bar. Then, one night, Rudolph got careless; he was arrested and put in jail—possibly forever. But even in custody, he remained unrepentant . . . and an enigma.
In Lone Wolf, Maryanne Vollers brings the reader deep inside one of the most sensational cases of domestic terrorism in American history. At the same time, without losing sight of the hideous nature of Rudolph's violent crimes, she successfully puts a human face on an iconic killer while exploring the painful mysteries of the heart.
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About the Author
Maryanne Vollers, the author of Lone Wolf and Ghosts of Mississippi, has also collaborated with Hillary Rodham Clinton and Ashley Judd on their bestselling memoirs. She lives with her husband in Montana.
Read an Excerpt
Lone WolfEric Rudolph: Murder, Myth, and the Pursuit of an American Outlaw
By Maryanne Vollers
HarperCollinsCopyright © 2006 Maryanne Vollers
All right reserved.
Chapter OneLone Wolf
In the end, the moon was just another enemy. It hadn't always been that way. When he started writing about his fugitive years the word he chose was "addicting": "There is something addicting about the full moon on an early summer or fall evening in the South ..." Now the moonlight pinned him to the shadows, kept him off the roads and dirt tracks where the breeze would disperse his scent before the hounds could follow it. The damp grass and foliage would hold his trail for days. The years of hiding, he later said, had turned him into a nocturnal creature, sleeping in the day, prowling for food at night, always watchful.
Eric Rudolph kept his campsite orderly: hiking boots lined up like soldiers on the cardboard pallet beneath a double tarp; scavenged newspapers and magazines stacked up neatly beside them. A small ring of stones for a cooking fire, with two blackened pots upturned to drain. He had scattered overripe bananas, tomatoes, and onions to dry in the sun. He could store them, use them later when food was scarce. His life was consumed with planning: figuring out the movement of police patrols through town, knowing which days the grocery stores dumped their expired bread and vegetables. He traced a grid on notebook paper to make into a calendar and neatly crossed off each day asit passed. When the federal agents found the calendar at his camp, the last marked date was May 30, 2003.
It was a weekend night, not much of a moon, and Rudolph figured that the lone patrolman would be distracted by teenage drunks out looking for trouble. He pulled on his "rummaging" clothes: a black cotton T-shirt, dark slacks, old black tennis shoes. In the darkness his feet remembered the steep trail down the small mountain overlooking town. When he reached the bottom he watched for the glow of headlights approaching, and when it was safe he ran across the four-lane highway, following the bridge a short distance until it crossed the Valley River. One time a car had surprised him and he'd had to hang off the side of the bridge to keep from being seen. Tonight the trip went smoothly and he dropped down quietly into a field on the other side of the river. He followed another well-worn path through the grass and weeds to the alley behind a small shopping center. The patrol car usually passed this way every hour or so. He crouched in the darkness and waited.
It was late in the third shift on the first night of the long Memorial Day weekend, and Officer Jeff Postell was running through his routine business checks along Andrews Road in Murphy, North Carolina. At about 3:30 A.M., Postell cruised through the alley behind the Save-A-Lot grocery store and the Sears appliance retailer, past a cluster of old, one-story shops with their backs to the marshy bottomland of the Valley River. Then he turned his patrol car back into the deserted parking lot.
Postell was short and slight, a twenty-one-year-old rookie with less than a year on the Murphy police force. But as his colleagues had already noticed, Postell compensated for his size with hard work and enthusiasm. More seasoned police officers might slide through the bottom of the third shift, waiting for trouble to call itself in. Not Jeff Postell. He was flush with the optimism of inexperience, and he wanted to catch himself a burglar before he switched over to working days.
Murphy is the largest municipality in the mountainous western tip of North Carolina. The town has 2,500 people in a county with 25,000 scattered residents, a population that almost doubles in the summer months. Locals like to boast that the area is "two hours from anywhere": two hours' drive from Asheville to the east, Chattanooga to the west, Atlanta to the south. Due north is the Great Smoky Mountain National Park and the Appalachian heartland. Now that the textile factories and other light industries have packed up and moved to Mexico, Murphy's main industry is tourism. The visitors come for the clean air and wide mountain views, fishing and water sports. Four counties, Cherokee, Clay, Macon, and Swain, are set within the 500,000-acre Nantahala National Forest. If you don't count the transgressions of marijuana growers in the mountains or the crank syndicates that exploit the area as a regional distribution center, crime rates are pleasantly low. The most common police blotter items involve DUIs. Restaurants close early and the streets empty out after dark. People sleep soundly in the velvet warm nights of late spring, windows open to the breeze.
As soon as Postell was clear of the lot, he cut off his lights and swung the car around the corner and back into the alley, hoping to surprise any prowlers. It was then that he spotted the figure of a man crouched down and scurrying toward the supermarket loading dock. The rookie saw something long tucked under the subject's arm, like a rifle or a shotgun on a sling. The man heard him coming and darted behind a stack of milk crates. Postell turned on his "alley lights" while he radioed dispatch for backup. Then, using his open door for cover, he got out of the patrol car, drew his sidearm, and shouted, "Come out! Put your hands where I can see 'em!"
The man complied.
"Okay, drop to your knees. Now, down on the ground. Arms out. Cross your feet ..."
The subject seemed so docile that Postell felt comfortable enough to approach and cuff him.
Cherokee County deputy Sean Matthews, known to all as Turtle, was walking out of Fatback's Citgo with a paper cup of coffee in his hand when he heard a commotion on his patrol car radio. As he climbed behind the wheel he could make out Jeff Postell's voice shouting, "Man with a gun!" It sounded pretty urgent....
Excerpted from Lone Wolf by Maryanne Vollers Copyright © 2006 by Maryanne Vollers. Excerpted by permission.
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