Book Excerpt: Maryanne Vollers' 'Lone Wolf'

ByABC News via logo
November 30, 2006, 5:24 PM

Dec. 1, 2006 — -- It's rare to get inside the mind of a terrorist, but Maryanne Vollers does just that in her new book, "Lone Wolf: Eric Rudolph: Murder, Myth, and the Pursuit of an American Outlaw."

"Lone Wolf" tells the story of Eric Rudolph, a deadly bomber who evaded the largest manhunt in FBI history. Letters from Rudolph unlock the mystery surrounding his mindset and run from the law.

Vollers paints a chilling, disturbing portrait that no reader will soon forget.

"Liberty for the wolves means death to the lambs." --Isaiah Berlin

1: Lone 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 quickly disperse his scent, leaving no trace for the hounds to follow. The damp grass and foliage could 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. Discarded newspapers and magazines stacked to read. 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. Every day was neatly crossed off as it 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 the lone patrolman would be distracted by teenage drunks out looking for trouble. Rudolph pulled on his "rummaging" clothes: a black cotton tee 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 edge of a small shopping mall. The patrol car usually drove down this alley once 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 Highway 19 in Murphy, North Carolina. At about 3:30 am, Postell cruised through the alley behind the Save-A-Lot grocery store and the Sears appliance retailer, past a random 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 21-year-old rookie with less than a year on the Murphy police force. But as his colleagues had already noticed, Postell managed to compensate for his size. 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 2500 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," which is the driving time to the nearest city in any direction: 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 long mountain views, fishing and water sports. Four counties, Cherokee, Clay, Macon and Swain are interspersed with 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 DUI's. 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!"

Which is just what the man did."Okay, drop to your knees." The man complied."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. Jody Bandy, an officer with the Tennessee Valley Authority whose jurisdiction covered the federal lakes in the region, had stopped for coffee with Matthews and heard the same call. He jumped into his own car, and both of them took off with their lights on and sirens blaring. By the time they arrived at the Save-A-Lot alley, a third backup had already arrived: Charles Kilby, an off-duty city policeman who had been finishing some paperwork at the station when the call came in.

As the four officers stood around the man lying face-down in the dirt, Postell started asking him the routine questions: What's your name? Where are you from and what are you doing here? The man seemed calm and respectful. Cooperative. He said his name was Jerry Wilson, born December 19, 1964, but he had no identification on him. He was homeless, he said, just passing through from Ohio. He'd been living under a bridge, and he was hungry. He looked to be somewhere in his thirties, thin, average height, with short dark hair. He wore a dirty camouflage jacket, black tennis shoes and dark pants tied at the ankles with string. A bulge underneath his jacket turned out to be a pair of binoculars. The object tucked under his arm was not a gun, but a long black Mag-lite slung on a piece of rope. Nearby they found an army rucksack, empty except for some plastic bags and string.Postell called his dispatch to run an identity check, and the name and date of birth he gave came back "no match." That was odd. Most people had at least some sort of records in the system.