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Alex Cross, Run

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

Chapter 5

IT WAS LATE EVENING BY THE TIME I FINALLY GOT OVER TO THE AMERICAN Allied Parking garage in Georgetown. The site was well preserved, but Darcy Vickers’s body had already been removed. I’d have to fill in some blanks with the crime-scene photography later and glean what I could for now.

Ms. Vickers’s silver BMW 550i was parked on the third level. That’s where she’d been found. One of the Second District detectives, Will Freemont, walked me through it. He seemed like he wondered what I was doing so late to the party, but that was the least of my worries right now. My thoughts were still consumed by the Elizabeth Reilly case.

“So, they found her in here,” Freemont said, pointing into the open trunk. “Stab wounds were here, here, and here.” He pointed with two fingers to his own chest, abdomen, and upper leg. “This lady didn’t die too well, but you can bet she died quick, for whatever that’s worth. And just for shits and giggles, I guess, he cut off her hair, too.”

Left behind were a yoga mat, a briefcase, a few shopping bags, and a garment bag, all covered in a combination of dried blood and a mess of loose blond hair, some of it matted with the blood.

There was also a good-size dark stain—more blood— pooled on the cement under the car.

“He would have needed it to be quick,” I said. “It’s a pretty risky site for a murder.”

“He?” Freemont said.

“I’m guessing,” I said. It was all about first impressions at this point. “What do we know about Darcy Vickers?”

The detective flipped open a small notebook, the same kind I carried, and looked down at it.

“Forty-two years old. Divorced, no kids. Works for Kimball-Ellis on K Street, mostly retainer work for a couple of the big tobacco companies. Supposedly she had a real cutthroat reputation, from what I’ve got so far.”

In other words, Darcy Vickers had plenty of enemies. Most lobbyists do. But not every lobbyist ends up stabbed to death in the trunk of a car. Who, exactly, would want to do this? And why?

And for that matter, could this possibly have anything to do with Elizabeth Reilly’s hanging?

Nothing obvious had been taken. Darcy Vickers’s wallet, cash, phone, and jewelry were all still there, as far as anyone knew. That led me to believe that the killing itself was the motive, either to satisfy some impulse for violence or to get rid of this woman in particular—or maybe both.

In those respects, the two cases seemed the same. But the m.o. was completely different.

Assuming Elizabeth Reilly hadn’t committed suicide, her killer wanted the body put on display for everyone to see. He would have had to go to some trouble for that. Whereas with Darcy Vickers, it was all about the act itself—the stabbing, and then for whatever reasons, the cutting of the hair.

My gut was telling me these were two different cases, but we still had a lot of background work to do. Maybe these two women shared some connection, somewhere.

“Any witnesses?” I asked Freemont.

“Not exactly,” he said. “But security cameras picked up something interesting.”

He unfolded several sheets from his pocket, and showed me a series of black-and-white screen captures.

“This is nine oh four last night. We’ve got Ms. Vickers, coming in the east entrance from the alley over there. Then, right behind her, we’ve got this guy.”

The image showed a middle-aged, or maybe elderly, white male. The picture quality wasn’t great, but it was clear enough for a few details. He was bald, with dark-rimmed glasses, and what looked like a Members Only jacket, with the snaps on the shoulders.

“At nine oh nine, we’ve got the same guy leaving a different way, out toward M Street, and still on foot,” the detective went on. “What he was doing in here for five minutes is anyone’s guess.”

“What about cameras on this level?” I said.

“Right there.” He pointed toward a badly battered unit in a corner of the ceiling. “Someone took it out just after eight o’clock last night. Threw a rock at it, or something.”

“So, then...” I stopped to think about this. “If the old guy has anything to do with it, why just take out one camera? Why let himself be seen on two others?”

“I know,” he said. “Good question. We’ve got a BOLO out on him right now. If we can get him in, we might start to put together some answers.”

Maybe, I thought. But something told me it wasn’t going to be that easy.

Copyright © 2013 by James Patterson

Read by Michael Boatman & Steven Boyer

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