Detective Alex Cross must confront his most terrifying nemesis ever-and his own deepest fears-in this electrifying new thriller from the master of suspense, James Patterson.
Alex Cross has never believed in vampires. But when two joggers are found slain in a manner that suggests a macabre ritual, he has to reconsider. Someone believes in vampires enough to have committed a series of bizarre murders that appear to be the work of one. Local police are horrified, and even the FBI is baffled.
Cross takes on the case and plunges into a netherworld of secret clubs and role-players, a world full of poseurs and playactors-and someone demented enough to have crossed the line from dark ritual to real blood. At the same time, a lethal super-criminal from Cross's past known as the Mastermind is stalking him, taunting him, and threatening everything he holds dear. Cross has never been closer to defeat, or in greater danger. In a shocking conclusion, Alex Cross must survive a deadly confrontation-only to discover at last the awful secret of the Mastermind.
Part One: THE CALIFORNIA MURDERS
UNITED STATES ARMY LIEUTENANT Martha Wiatt and her boyfriend, Sergeant Davis O'Hara, moved at a fast pace as the evening fog began to roll in like a sulfurous cloud across Golden Gate Park in San Francisco. The couple looked sleek, even beautiful, in the waning light of day. Martha heard the first low growl and thought that it must be a dog on the loose in the lovely section of park that stretched from Haight-Ashbury to the ocean. It came from far enough behind them that she wasn't worried.
"The Big Dawg!" she kidded Davis as they jogged up a steep hill that offered a stellar view of the stunning suspension bridge connecting San Francisco to Marin County.
"Big Dawg" was a pet expression they used for everything oversized — from jetliners to sexual apparatus to very large canines.
Soon the thick fog would blanket the bridge and bay completely, but for now it was a gorgeous sight, incomparable, one of their favorite things in San Francisco.
"I love this run, that beautiful bridge, the sunset — the whole ball of wax," Martha said in a steady, relaxed cadence.
"But enough bad poetry. It's time for me to kick your well-formed, athletic-looking butt, O'Hara."
"That sounds like cheap-shot female chauvinism to me," he grunted, but he was grinning, showing off some of the whitest teeth she had ever seen, or run her tongue across. Martha kicked her pace up a notch. She'd been a cross-country star at Pepperdine University and she was still in great shape. "And that sounds like the beginnings of a gracious loser's speech," she said.
"We'll see about that, won't we? Loser buys at the Abbey."
"I can already taste a Dos Equis. Mmm-mmm good." Suddenly the two runners' playful exchange was interrupted by a much louder growl. It was closer too. It didn't seem possible that a dog had covered so much ground so fast. Maybe there were a couple of Big Dawgs loose in the area.
"There aren't any cats in this park?" David asked. "I mean, like a mountain lion variety of cats?"
"No. Of course not. Get real, pal. We're in San Francisco, not the middle of Montana." Martha shook her head. Moisture jumped off her close-cropped reddish-brown hair. Then she thought she heard footsteps. A runner and a large dog?
"Let's get out of these woods, okay?" Davis asked.
"I hear you. I don't necessarily disagree. Last one to the parking lot is dog chow."
"Not funny, Lieutenant Martha. Bad joke. This is getting a little spooky."
"I don't know about big cats around these parts, but I think I just spotted a little pussy."
Another loud growl — and it was really close. Right on the heels of the two of them. Gaining ground fast.
"C'mon! Let's go. Let's move it," said Martha Wiatt. She was a little afraid now, running as fast as she could, and that was very fast.
Another eerie growl pierced the gathering fog.
Copyright © 2001 by James Patterson
Read by Daniel Whitner & Kevin O'Rourke
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