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Cross Fire

Wedding bells ring
Detective Alex Cross and Bree's wedding plans are put on hold when Alex is called to the scene of the perfectly executed assassination of two of Washington D.C.'s most corrupt: a dirty congressmen and an underhanded lobbyist. Next, the elusive gunman begins picking off other crooked politicians, sparking a blaze of theories—is the marksman a hero or a vigilante?

A murderer returns
The case explodes, and the FBI assigns agent Max Siegel to the investigation. As Alex and Siegel battle over jurisdiction, the murders continue. It becomes clear that they are the work of a professional who has detailed knowledge of his victims' movements—information that only a Washington insider could possess.

Caught in a lethal cross fire
As Alex contends with the sniper, Siegel, and the wedding, he receives a call from his deadliest adversary, Kyle Craig. The Mastermind is in D.C. and will not relent until he has eliminated Cross and his family for good. With a supercharged blend of action, deception, and suspense, Cross Fire is James Patterson's most visceral and exciting Alex Cross novel ever.

Prologue | FINDERS, KEEPERS

One

IT HAD BEEN MONTHS since Kyle Craig had killed a man. Once upon a time, he’d been the type who needed everything yesterday, if not sooner. But no more. If years of hellish solitude in ADX Florence in Colorado had taught him nothing else, it was how to wait for what he wanted.

He sat patiently in the foyer of his quarry’s Miami apartment, weapon cradled on his lap, watching the lights of the harbor and biding his time. He was in no particular hurry, enjoying the view, maybe finally learning to enjoy life. He certainly looked relaxed — faded jeans, sandals, a T-shirt that said CONSIDER THIS FAIR WARNING.

At 2:12 a.m., a key sounded in the lock. Kyle immediately rose to his feet and pressed his back against the wall, hanging there as silently as a piece of art.

The man of the hour, Max Siegel, was whistling as he came in. Kyle recognized the melody, an old snatch from his childhood. It was from Peter and the Wolf. The strings section — Peter’s hunting theme. Ironically enough.

He waited for Mr. Siegel to close the door behind him and take a few more steps into the still-dark apartment. Then Kyle leveled his red laser site and squeezed the trigger. “Hello, Mr. Siegel,” he said. “Good to meet you.”

A stream of electrically charged saline solution hit Siegel squarely in the back, carrying fifty thousand volts with it. He grunted between clenched teeth. His shoulders seized up just before his body went completely rigid, and he fell like a tree to the floor.

Kyle didn’t hesitate for a second. He quickly slipped a nylon cord across Siegel’s throat, wound it around three times, and started to drag him in a small circle to sop up the saline solution on the floor, then yanked him straight through the apartment toward the master bath in the back. Siegel was too weak to struggle. Whatever effort he could muster was spent on the cord itself, trying not to be strangled.

“Don’t fight me,” Kyle said finally. “There’s no point in it.”

In the bathroom, Kyle lifted him into the oversize tub and tied off the ends of the cord to one of the chrome fixtures. It wasn’t necessary, physically speaking, but it kept Siegel’s head up where Kyle could see his face.

“You probably don’t even know about these, do you?” he said, holding up the strange gun he’d carried in. “I know you’ve been underground awhile, but trust me, they’re going to be huge.”

The thing looked like a Super Soaker, which it kind of was. Regular Tasers could go for thirty seconds at best. This baby could run and run, thanks to a two-gallon wearable water pack strapped to his back.

“What… do you want?” Siegel finally choked out in response to the madness.

Kyle withdrew a small Canon digital camera from his pocket and started taking pictures. Full face, left profile, right profile.

“I know who you are, Agent Siegel. Let’s start there, okay?”

A look of confusion crossed the man’s face. Then fear. “Oh God, this is some kind of horrible mistake. My name is Ivan Schimmel!”

“No,” Kyle said, snapping away — brow, nose, chin. “You’re Max Siegel, and you’re FBI. You’ve been deep undercover for the last twenty-six months. Worked your way up with the Buenez cartel until they trusted you enough to start making shipments.

“Now, while everyone’s watching Colombia, you’re running heroin from Phuket and Bangkok to Miami.”

He lowered the camera and looked Siegel in the eye. “Never mind the moral relativism. It’s all in the name of the big takedown at the end. Isn’t that right, Agent Siegel?”

“I don’t know who you’re talking about!” he cried. “Please! Check my wallet!” He’d begun to struggle again, but another dose of voltage put a quick end to that. The electricity went right after the motor and sensory nerves. Siegel’s pain tolerance was irrelevant. And the ammo, such as it was, ran right down the drain into Biscayne Bay.

“I suppose you might be forgiven for not recognizing me,” Kyle went on. “Does the name ‘Kyle Craig’ mean anything to you? Or maybe the Mastermind? That’s what they call me up at the Puzzle Palace in DC. As a matter of fact, I used to work there. Long time ago.”

A flash of recognition came and went in Siegel’s eyes, not that Kyle needed any kind of confirmation. His reconnaissance was still flawless.

But this Max Siegel was a pro, too. He wasn’t about to stop playing the game now, especially now. “Please,” he blubbered on when he found his voice again, “what is this? Who are you? I don’t know what you want.”

“Everything, Max. Every last little thing.”

Kyle took another half dozen pictures and repocketed the camera. “You’re actually a victim of your own good work, if that’s any consolation. Nobody knows who you are down here, not even the local FBI. That’s why I chose you. I selected you out of all the agents working in the United States. You, Max. Can you guess why?”

His voice had changed as he spoke. It was more nasal now, with the same shades of Brooklyn accent that laced the real Max Siegel’s speech.

“This will never work! You’re insane!” Siegel screamed at him. “You’re fucking mad!”

“By some standards, I think that might be true,” Kyle said. “But I’m also the most brilliant son of a bitch you’ll ever have the pleasure to know.” Then he pulled the trigger one more time and just let the thing run.

Siegel writhed mutely on the bottom of the tub. Eventually, he began to gag on his own tongue. Kyle watched, carefully noting every detail all the way to the end, studying his subject until there was nothing left to learn.

“Let’s hope this works,” he said. “Wouldn’t want you to have died for nothing, Mr. Siegel.”

Copyright © 2010 by James Patterson

Read by Andre Braugher & Jay O. Sanders

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