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Big Bad Wolf

Alex Cross's first case since joining the FBI has his new colleagues stymied. Across the country, beautiful women are being kidnapped-to be bought and sold as slaves. Behind this depraved scheme stands a shadowy figure known only as The Wolf, a master criminal who has brought a new reign of terror to organized crime. With Alex's personal life in chaos because of his ex-fiancée's return and with the FBI's caution testing his patience, Alex has to go out on his own. For to stalk a ruthless predator without a name or a face, Alex Cross must become a lone wolf himself...

Chapter 5

SENIOR AGENT GORDON NOONEY was waiting in his small, cramped office in the Administration building. He was obviously upset, which had the desired effect: I wondered what I could have done wrong in the time since we'd talked before class.

It didn't take him long to let me know why he was so angry. "Don't bother to sit down. You'll be out of here in a minute. I just received a highly unusual call from Tony Woods in the director's office. There's a 'situation' going down in Baltimore. Apparently the director wants you there. It will take precedence over your training classes."

Nooney shrugged his broad shoulders. Out the window behind him I could see thick woods, and also Hoover Road, where a couple of agents jogged. "What the hell, why would you need any training here, Dr. Cross? You caught Casanova in North Carolina. You're the man who brought down Kyle Craig. You're like Clarice Starling in the movies. You're already a star."

I took a deep breath before responding. "I had nothing to do with this. I won't apologize for catching Casanova or Kyle Craig."

Nooney waved a hand my way. "Why should you apologize? You're dismissed from the day's classes. There's a helicopter waiting for you over at HRT. You do know where Hostage Rescue Team is?"

"I know where it is."

Class dismissed, I was thinking as I ran to the helipad. I could hear the crack, crack of weapons being fired at the shooting range. Then I was onboard the helicopter and strapping in. Less than twenty minutes later, the Bell helicopter touched down in Baltimore. I still hadn't gotten over my meeting with Nooney. Did he understand that I hadn't asked for this assignment? I didn't even know why I was in Baltimore.

Two agents in a dark blue sedan were waiting for me. One of them, Jim Heekin, took charge immediately, and also put me in my place. "You must be the FNG," he said as we shook hands.

I wasn't familiar with what the letters stood for, so I asked Heekin what they meant as we got into the car. He smiled, and so did his partner. "The Fucking New Guy," he said.

"What we have so far is a bad deal. And it's hot," Heekin said. "City of Baltimore homicide detective is involved. Probably why they wanted you here. He's holed up in his own house. Most of his immediate family's in there with him. We don't know if he's suicidal, homicidal, or both, but he's apparently taken the family hostage. Seems similar to a situation created by a police officer last year in south Jersey. This officer's family was gathered together for his father's birthday party. Some birthday party."

"Do we know how many are in the house with him?" I asked.

Heekin shook his head. "Best guess, at least a dozen, including a couple of children. Detective won't let us talk to any of the family members, and he won't answer our questions. Most of the people in the neighborhood don't want us here either."

"What's his name?" I asked as I jotted down a few notes to myself. I couldn't believe I was about to get involved in a hostage negotiation. It still didn't make any sense to me - and then - it did.

"His name is Dennis Coulter." I looked up in surprise. "I know Dennis Coulter. I worked a murder case with him. Shared a bushel of crabs at Obrycki's once upon a time."

"We know," said Agent Heekin. "He asked for you."

Copyright © 2004 by James Patterson

Read by Peter J. Fernandez & Denis O'Hare
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