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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.

Part One | SHOOTER READY

Chapter 1

ANOTHER MANHOLE COVER had exploded in Georgetown, blowing nearly forty feet in the air. It was a strange little epidemic, as the city’s aging infrastructure reached some kind of critical mass.

Over time, underground wires had frayed and smoldered, filling the space beneath the streets with flammable gas. Ultimately — and more frequently these days — the exposed wires created an electrical arc, lighting a fireball in the sewer and sending another three-hundred-pound iron disk flying up into the air.

This was the weird, scary stuff Denny and Mitch lived for. Every afternoon, they would gather up their papers to sell and hoof it over to the library to check the District Department of Transportation (DDOT) website for wherever rush-hour traffic was at its worst. Logjams were their meat.

Even on an ordinary day, the Key Bridge lived up to its nickname, the Car Strangled Spanner, but today the M Street approach was somewhere between a parking lot and a circus. Denny worked his way up the middle of the traffic, and Mitch took the outside.

True Press, only a dollar. Help the homeless.”

“Jesus loves you. Help the homeless?”

They were an odd pair, to look at them — Denny, a six-feet-something white guy with bad teeth and stubble that never quite hid his sunken chin, and then Mitch, a brother with a boyish, dark black face, a husky body that topped out at five six, and stubby little baby dreads on his head to match.

“This is a perfect metaphor right here, ain’t it?” Denny was saying. They talked to each other over the tops of the cars — or, rather, Denny talked and Mitch played a sort of straight man for the customers.

“You got pressure building, way down low where no one’s looking, ’cause it’s all just rats and shit down there, and who cares, right? But then one day —” Denny puffed out his cheeks and made a sound like a nuclear explosion. “Now you gotta pay attention, ’cause the rats and shit, they’re everywhere, and everyone wants to know why somebody else didn’t do something to stop it. I mean, if that ain’t Washington to a tee, I don’t know what the hell is.”

“To a tee, bro. To a P, Q, R, S, tee,” Mitch said, and laughed at his own dumb joke. His faded shirt read, IRAQ: IF YOU WEREN’T THERE, SHUT UP! His pants were baggy camos, like Denny’s, only cut off around the calf.

Denny kept his shirt up over his shoulders to show off a half-decent six-pack. It never hurt to put a little eye candy on the table, and his face wasn’t exactly his strong suit. “It’s the American way,” he went on, loud enough for anyone with an open window to hear. “Keep doing what you always did, so you keep gettin’ what you always got. Am I right?” he asked a pretty business suit in a BMW. She actually smiled and bought a paper. “God bless you, miss. Now that, Ladies and Gentlemen, is how we do it!”

He continued to fleece the crowd, getting more and more drivers to reach out their windows with cash in hand.

“Yo, Denny.” Mitch chinned at a couple of street cops working their way over from Thirty-fourth. “I don’t think these two are feeling us too much.”

Denny shouted over before the cops could talk first. “Panhandling ain’t illegal, officers. Not outside federal parklands, and last I checked, M Street ain’t no park!”

One of them gestured around at the snarl of traffic, Pepco trucks, and fire department vehicles. “You’re kidding me, right? Let’s go. Clear out.”

“Come on, man, you gonna deny a couple of homeless vets the right to make an honest living?”

“You ever been in Iraq, man?” Mitch added. People were starting to stare.

“You heard the officer,” the second cop told him. “Move along. Now.

“Hey, man, just ’cause you got an asshole don’t mean you gotta be one,” Denny said, to a few laughs. He could feel the captive audience coming over to his side.

Suddenly there was some pushing. Mitch didn’t much like to be touched, and the cop who tried went down on his ass between the cars. The other one got a hand on Denny’s shoulder and, like a lightning bolt, Denny knocked it away.

Time to go.

He slid across the hood of a yellow cab and started toward Prospect with Mitch right behind.

“Stop right there!” one of the cops shouted after them.

Mitch kept running, but Denny turned around. There were several cars between Denny and the officers now. “What are you going to do, shoot a homeless vet in the middle of traffic?” Then he spread his arms wide. “Go ahead, man. Take me out. Save the government a few bucks.”

People were honking, and some of them yelled from their cars.

“Give the guy a break, man!”

“Support the troops!”

Denny smiled, gave the officer a crisp salute with his middle finger, and ran to catch up with Mitch. A second later, they were sprinting up Thirty-third Street and were soon out of sight.

Copyright © 2010 by James Patterson

Read by Andre Braugher & Jay O. Sanders

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