Detective Alex Cross arrests renowned plastic surgeon Elijah Creem for sleeping with teenage girls. Now, his life ruined, Creem is out of jail, and he's made sure that no one will recognize him—by giving himself a new face.
A young woman is found hanging from a sixth-floor window, and Alex is called to the scene. The victim recently gave birth, but the baby is nowhere to be found. Before Alex can begin searching for the missing newborn and killer, he's called to investigate a second crime. All of Washington, D.C., is in a panic, and when a third body is discovered, rumours of three serial killers send the city into an all-out frenzy.
Alex's investigations are going nowhere, and he's too focused on the cases to notice that someone has been watching him—and will stop at nothing until he's dead. With white-hot speed, relentless drama, and hairpin turns, ALEX CROSS, RUN is James Patterson's ultimate thrill ride.
Part One | WIN, LOSE, OR DRAW
VERNON STREET IS JUST A SINGLE TREE-LINED BLOCK OFF THE WEST END of U Street. It’s a quiet residential area, but I could see a crowd of people pooled on the sidewalk as soon as I turned the corner from Eighteenth. Most of them were looking up and pointing at a mansard-roofed brick building on the south side of the street.
As soon as I got out of my car, I saw the girl. It was like a check in the ribs. She hung suspended by her neck on a length of rope, about three feet below one of the dormered sixth-floor windows. Her face was visibly discolored, and her hands seemed to be tied behind her back.
Jesus. Oh Jesus.
There were two cruisers and an ambulance parked out front, but the only personnel I saw was a single cop on the door of the apartment building. The rest of the sidewalk was filled up with looky-loos, snapping away on their phones and cameras. It pissed me off as much as it amazed me.
“Get this street roped off, right now!” I told the cop on my way into the building. “I don’t want to see anyone on that sidewalk by the time I’m up there looking down, you got it?”
I knew he had his hands full, but I couldn’t help feeling revved up by the whole thing. This girl was someone’s daughter. She had a family. They didn’t need her picture on some goddamn Facebook page for the world to see.
I left the cop to it and took the stairwell instead of the elevator. It seemed like a more likely exit, if this was in fact a murder we were talking about. And you only get one chance to see a crime scene for the first time.
When I came out into the sixth-floor hall, another cop and two EMTs were waiting outside an open apartment door. The building had three units on this level, all facing the street. Our dead girl was apparently in the center one.
“Door was locked when we got here,” the police officer told me. “That splintering on the frame is us. We were inside just long enough to get a flatline on the girl, but it wasn’t easy. I can’t guarantee we didn’t move anything in there.”
The apartment was a small alcove studio. There was a closet kitchen to one side, an open bathroom door on the other, and a futon couch that looked like it doubled for a bed. As far as I could tell, there were no signs of a struggle. In fact, the only thing that looked out of place was the old-fashioned coat tree, braced sideways against the open window, with a loop of rope hanging down from the center.
I forced myself to enter the room slowly, checking for drag marks, or anything that might have been left behind. When I got to the window and looked down, I could see the top of the girl’s head, just out of reach. Her heel had broken through the window of the apartment below, and the cord around her wrists seemed to be more of the same rope that had been used in the hanging.
That didn’t rule out suicide, either. A lot of people will bind themselves just before they do the deed, to keep from trying to struggle free in the heat of the moment.
Down below, another cruiser had arrived and the street was clear. But now I had another problem. When I looked straight across, I could see at least a dozen people in the windows of the facing apartment building, looking my way—more phones, more cameras. I wanted to give them all the finger, but I held back.
Still, I wasn’t going to let this go on for one second longer than I had to.
“Give me a hand over here!” I shouted toward the hall.
Technically, the body at any crime scene belongs to the medical examiner, not the cops. But I wasn’t thinking about technicalities right now. I was thinking about this girl and her family.
I already had my own phone out, and I fired off a bunch of shots. I got the coat tree, the window frame, the rope, and the girl, from above. I needed to preserve as much detail as I could before I did what I was about to do.
“Sir?” a cop said behind me.
“Help me pull her in,” I said.
“Um...don’t you want to wait for the ME?”
“No,” I said, pointing at the audience we had across the street. “Not anymore. Now give me a hand, or get me someone who will!”
Copyright © 2013 by James Patterson
Read by Michael Boatman & Steven Boyer