Book Excerpt: Maryanne Vollers' 'Lone Wolf'

Inside the old jailhouse the deputies fingerprinted Rudolph and took a mug shot before they let him clean up a bit. To a man, nobody who saw Rudolph that morning could believe he'd been living in the mountains for so long. He was scruffy and not too fragrant but his hands were soft and his fingernails intact. His hair was trimmed and his teeth seemed sound. One jailer who saw him strip off his shirt in the washroom said his skin was clean and unscarred. Deer hunters returning home from a weekend in the woods looked worse than Rudolph. People were saying he should have been tanned like a leather strap if he'd spent years out in the wind and snow. But that was his story and he was sticking to it. "This is the first time I've talked to anyone in five years," he told Matthews.

One of the jailers gave Rudolph a Marlboro from a fresh pack of cigarettes. He said he was grateful to smoke something he didn't have to fish out of Taco Bell's outdoor ash can.

Turtle Matthews was assigned to sit with Rudolph. Since he had the only connection to him, however tenuous, the sheriff thought the prisoner might open up with him. He was told not to ask him any questions, but not to discourage him from talking, either. The jailers brought them some scrambled eggs and bacon, biscuits and gravy, juice and coffee – the first of two breakfasts for Rudolph, who wasn't lying when he said he was hungry. Mama Liz, the jail's excellent weekend cook, was famous for her biscuits. While they ate, Rudolph started to chat with Matthews. He asked about the outcome of a recent referendum in Murphy to allow beer and liquor to be sold by the drink in restaurants. "It lost," said the deputy. Rudolph nodded. He said he followed the papers whenever he could find them. Then Rudolph looked Matthews in the eye.

"I knew you knew," he said. "Then why did you lie to me tonight?"

"Well, it had happened before," he said, and proceeded to describe how he had been picked up by some cops back in 1999. He said a truck he had stolen to move his supplies ran out of gas outside of Murphy. Two deputy sheriffs stopped to offer him a ride to the filling station. They even dropped him back at his stolen truck without a question asked. He thought he might get lucky again. Matthews got the impression, though, that Rudolph was just relieved the running was over. He said he was tired of eating out of Dumpsters. He told him that he had never left the area, and he had a camp just outside of town. Turtle could tell the bomb technicians not to worry, he said, because it wouldn't be booby-trapped. And they would find it neat and sanitary. "Cleanliness is next to godliness," he said.

As Matthews got up to report this information to the sheriff, Rudolph told him something else. "No matter what you hear," he said, "tell them I'm not a monster."

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