Alex Cross rejoins the DC police force to confront two of the most diabolical killers he's ever encountered.
SURE ENOUGH, at 4:34 p.m. the door to the service entrance opened from inside. A tall black lackey in stained green coveralls and a silver Afro latched a chain from inside the door to a hook on the outside wall. His flatbed dolly, loaded with bulging plastic garbage bags, was too wide to negotiate the opening.
The man moved slowly, lazily carrying two bags at a time to a pair of commercial Dumpsters at the far end of a covered loading dock.
This man is still a slave to the whites, Qasim thought to himself. And look at him — the pathetic shuffle, the downcast eyes. He knows it too. He hates his job and the terrible people in the Riverwalk building.
Qasim watched closely, and he counted. Twelve paces away from the door, nine seconds to throw the garbage bags in, then back again.
On the man’s third trip, Qasim slipped by him unnoticed. And if his own cap and green coveralls weren’t enough to fool the camera, it was no crucial matter. He’d be long gone by the time anyone came to investigate the security breach.
He found the poorly lit service stairs easily enough. Qasim took the first flight cautiously, then ran up the next three. Actually, the running released pent-up adrenaline, which was useful to get under control.
On the fourth-floor landing was an unused utility closet, where he stashed the garment bag he had carried in, then continued up to twelve.
Less than three and a half minutes after entering the luxury building, he stood at the front door to apartment 12F. He gauged his position relative to the peephole in the door. His finger hovered over the buzzer, a recessed white button in the painted brick.
But he went no further than that. He didn’t actually push the buzzer today.
Without making a sound, he turned on his heels and left the way he had come. Minutes later, he was back out on the street, busy Connecticut Avenue.
The drill, the rehearsal, had gone fairly well. There were no major issues, no surprises either. And now Qasim jostled along with the rush-hour pedestrian traffic. He was invisible here, just as unseen in this herd as he needed to be.
He felt no impatience for the execution up on the twelfth floor. Patience and impatience were irrelevant to him. Preparation, timing, completion, success: those were the things that mattered.
When the time came, Yousef Qasim would be ready to do his part.
And he would.
One American at a time.
Copyright © 2007 by James Patterson
Peter Jay Fernandez is a New York-based actor and narrator. He has appeared on Broadway in Jelly's Last Jam and The Merchant of Venice. His extensive television credits include Funny Valentines, The Prosecutors, Law & Order, and Cosby. He currently lives in Harlem with his wife Denise and read London Bridges and Cross, also by James Patterson, for Hachette Audio.
Michael Stuhlbarg attended Juilliard and received a Tony Award nomination for his work in Pillowman and an Obie Award for his off-Broadway performance in The Voysey Inheritance.