Detective Alex Cross is being stalked by a psychotic genius, forced to play the deadliest game of his career. Cross's family—his loving wife Bree, the wise and lively Nana Mama, and his precious children—have been ripped away. Terrified and desperate, Cross must give this mad man what he wants if he has any chance of saving the most important people in his life. The stakes have never been higher: What will Cross sacrifice to save the ones he loves?
Widely praised by the greatest crime and thriller writers of our time, Cross My Heart set a jaw-dropping story in motion. Hope to Die propels Alex Cross's greatest challenge to its astonishing finish, proving why Jeffery Deaver says "nobody does it better" than James Patterson.
Part One | SIXTEEN DAYS EARLIER...
AT SEVEN FORTY-FIVE the next morning, Marcus Sunday strode confidently through the lobby of the Four Seasons in Georgetown, knowing full well that no one would ever recognize him in this outrageous getup.
On another man it might have been thought a clown’s outfit: purple high-top sneakers, orange shirt and pants, ice-blue contact lenses, two nose rings, and a flaming-red Abe Lincoln beard with matching eyebrows and a matching wig that stood four inches straight up over his head. But Sunday knew that the disguise exuded a certain, well, charismatic threat, especially in a place like this, as if he were some sort of psycho Carrot Top or worse.
Indeed, the maître d’ looked mightily upset when Sunday went to the stack on a table and grabbed a copy of the Washington Post that featured a story on the death of Mad Man Francones and three others at a local massage parlor, then approached his station, saying in a nasal, whiny tone: “Table for one.”
The maître d’ tried to look down his nose at Sunday, said, “And do you have a reservation with us, sir?”
“Guest of the hotel,” Sunday said. “Room 1450.”
Room 1450 was a thousand-dollar-a-night suite. The maître d’s attitude shifted measurably, but he still eyed the writer’s attire. “Mr. . . . ?”
“Mulch,” Sunday replied. “Thierry Mulch. Like the composted stuff.”
“Oh,” the maître d’ said as if he’d just tasted something unpleasant, and snatched up a menu. “Please follow me, Mr. Mulch.”
Inside the dining room, the air seemed at a different barometric pressure, as if some vast low had descended over the place. And it bore a smell beyond rueful bacon, sausage, and coffee that Sunday recognized as the rot of power.
Corpulent stuffed shirts with five-hundred-dollar haircuts were wall-eyeing the writer almost immediately. A brassy blond cougar in a brick-red Chanel suit looked up as he passed. Sunday winked her way, licked his upper lip with feline hunger, and almost laughed when her cheeks ignited.
He kept walking, flashing on the mystery that was Acadia Le Duc, and the indescribable fun and desires they would share in just a few short —
“Mr. Mulch?” the maître d’ said, breaking into his thoughts with a stiff gesture to a table tucked in the corner by the kitchen doors.
“Why don’t you stick me in the john?” Sunday asked in that nasal, whiny voice, then pointed over near the windows. “I’d like to sit there.”
The maître d’ went stone-faced but nodded and led the writer to a table where almost everyone in the place could see him.
“Thanks,” Sunday said loudly. “More like it.”
He looked around at the various dignitaries, politicians, lobbyists, and the like, many of whom were either glancing at him or staring openly. The writer gave several of them the thumbs-up. They looked like they’d just felt a tick crawling up their spine.
Brilliant entertainment, he thought, and then analyzed the forces at play.
These sorts of ridiculous people believed in decorum, tact, and manners. Sunday had found that when you brushed up hard against their rules of accepted behavior, you created agitation. And agitation, as far as he was concerned, was a good thing, a very good thing —what he lived for, as a matter of fact.
But when a waiter came over to pour coffee and take his order, Sunday behaved himself. He was hungry and had a busy day ahead.
“The frittata, the lemon and ricotta pancakes, and a large fresh-squeezed OJ,” he said.
“Bacon?” the waiter asked.
Sunday made a face as if he might be ill, said, “No, never again.”
When the waiter left, the writer read the story about the Francones murder with great interest, especially the fact that Alex Cross had been assigned to the case. Well, who else, right?
Rather than getting truly pissed off, however, Sunday refocused on the task at hand. Make a scene, he thought.
Looking around again, the writer noticed that a nerdy man in a Brooks Brothers suit that screamed professional boor had taken a seat at the table to his left. The boor was studying his iPhone intently. Sunday recognized him as a syndicated political pundit and mainstay of the morning talk shows, a pasty-faced guy in a bow tie who never used a single-syllable word when a six-syllable one would do.
Perfect target, the writer realized, and began to enjoy himself. Serendipity, that was what it was. Chance fortune.
“Porn?” Sunday called over to the pundit.
The chattering head looked up, confused.
The writer gestured at the phone and observed in that nasal, whiny voice: “I figured you had to be watching something, like, really nasty to be that locked on.”
“Hardly,” the man shot back in a harsh whisper. “Have some couth.”
“That one of the specials here?” Sunday asked, glancing down at his menu. “I must have missed that. Does couth come poached or fried?”
The pundit was studying his iPhone even more intently now.
“I know you,” Sunday said. “You’re a guy who’s got an opinion on everything. So I want to know: Do you think Pooh was right?”
The pundit sighed, looked at the writer, said, “Pooh? As in the bear?”
“Or Ursus mellitus, as you might say,” Sunday replied good-naturedly. “Now, I consider Pooh Bear to be one of the great thinkers of all time. Right up with Marcus Aurelius, Nietzsche, and Bob Dylan. Especially when it came to breakfast.”
The pundit got exasperated. “What are you babbling about?”
Sunday acted offended, touched his fingers to his flaming-red hair.
“Babbling?” he said. “Thierry Mulch? Well, no more than you in your latest column. All I was doing was discussing Pooh Bear and his immortal disquisition with Piglet regarding breakfast.
“Don’t you remember?” Sunday demanded angrily. “Pooh Bear thought breakfast was the most exciting part of the day. There’s his thesis, my good man. Agree or disagree? No reason to say ‘affirmative’ or ‘demonstrably false.’ A simple yes or no will do.”
Copyright © 2013 by James Patterson
Read by Michael Boatman & Tom Wopat