The Jester

The Jester

BY James Patterson & Andrew Gross

You are about to begin the most thrilling James Patterson novel yet. Hugh De Luc returns from the Crusades to discover that his terrifying nightmare has just begun. Merciless killers have slain his young son, kidnapped his wife, Sophie, and destroyed his town in their search for a priceless relic from the Crucifixion. Hugh's quest to find Sophie is one of the most pulse-pounding adventures, mysteries, and unforgettable love stories in all of thriller fiction.

Chapter 1

Veille du Père, a village in southern France, 1096

The church bells were ringing.

Loud, quickening peals — echoing through town in the middle of the day.

Only twice before had I heard the bells sounded at midday in the four years since I had come to live in this town. Once, when word reached us that the King’s son had died. And the second, when a raiding party from our lord’s rival in Digne swept through town during the wars, leaving eight dead and burning almost every house to the ground.

What was going on?

I rushed to the second-floor window of the inn I looked after with my wife, Sophie. People were running into the square, still carrying their tools. "What’s going on? Who needs help?" they shouted.

Then Antoine, who farmed a plot by the river, galloped over the bridge aboard his mule, pointing back toward the road. "They’re coming! They’re almost here!"

From the east, I heard the loudest chorus of voices, seemingly raised as one. I squinted through the trees and felt my jaw drop. "Jesus, I’m dreaming," I said to myself. A peddler with a cart was considered an event here. I blinked at the sight, not once but twice.

It was the greatest multitude I had ever seen! Jammed along the narrow road into town, stretching out as far as the eye could see.

"Sophie, come quick, now," I yelled. "You’re not going to believe this."

My wife of three years hurried to the window, her yellow hair pinned up for the workday under a white cap. "Mother of God, Hugh . . ."

"It’s an army," I muttered, barely able to believe my eyes. "The Army of the Crusade."

Copyright © 2003 by James Patterson

Read by Hope Davis & Stephen Lang

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The Jester
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