Book Excerpt: Maryanne Vollers' 'Lone Wolf'

Postell shook his head, wondering at the possibility. Rudolph was one of the FBI's Ten Most Wanted. Postell had been in high school in 1998, when Rudolph's name first came up as a suspect in the fatal bombing of an abortion clinic in Birmingham, AL. He was also accused of a series of bombings in Georgia, including one at the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta where two people died. Postell had heard that Rudolph was some sort of survivalist with links to a racist militia group, and that he had been living alone in a trailer outside Murphy before he disappeared. When he was in high school, Postell used to work at the McDonald's in Andrews, serving morning coffee to the state and federal agents who arrived in droves to search the national forest for Rudolph. He'd even rode around with some of them for a Boy Scout project. It was the biggest federal manhunt in history, but they never caught Rudolph. By now most people thought he was either dead or long gone. Postell thought this was a strange way for him to show up after five years. But Matthews had actually met Eric Rudolph years back. They'd both grown up in Macon County, just northwest of here. That put a certain weight behind his suspicions. After some discussion about what to do with him, the officers agreed "Mr. Wilson" should be taken into custody under the safe-keeping statute, a state law designed to sweep vagrants and drunks off the streets for their own good. Then they could hold him for up to twenty-four hours. When Postell informed "Wilson" he was being taken to the county jail to be given a warm bed and a hot meal, the man showed no signs of alarm.

Matthews put the suspect in the back of Postell's cruiser and looked him in the eye. "You're not who you say you are," he told him, and the man said nothing, just smiled, as Matthews later recalled, "a big shit-eating grin."

Within three minutes they were at the county jail, a square brick building behind the courthouse. The jailhouse was half a century past its prime, and far too small for the county. The sheriff's offices, which were once housed in the building, had been pushed out to make room for more cells – enough to hold eighty prisoners in cramped quarters. The sheriff now occupied a cluster of white trailers on the other side of the parking lot. The city police station was on Peachtree Street, a block away.

As soon as they got Mr. Wilson settled in the booking room of the old jail, the cops looked around for a picture of the fugitive Eric Rudolph. Nobody could find one. So Postell went on the Internet and printed out an FBI wanted poster. One of the images was clean-shaven, and sure enough, although the old picture of Rudolph was much beefier than the subject at hand, he had the same attached earlobes, the same hairline, the same scar on his chin.

Jody Bandy from the TVA brought the poster into the booking room and held it up behind the man who sat placidly in his chair, saying nothing. Everyone gathered around. Matthews told him, "You look like someone I used to know." He snickered.

Finally Bandy said, "Just tell us who you really are." The man laughed softly, and Postell remembered it was "the coldest laugh I ever heard." "I'm Eric Robert Rudolph," he said. "You got me." Just like that.

He did not say "I'm Eric Rudolph," the way his friends and family knew him. No, this was Eric Robert Rudolph, a man familiar with his own legend.

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