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...
DRESSED NOW IN A black leather jacket, black jeans, black polo shirt, and black harness boots, Marcus Sunday hurried toward the New North building at the center of the Georgetown University campus. Weaving through a throng of students, he reached the 120-seat McNeir Auditorium and went in, passing a sign outside that read, the perfect criminal. lecture today. 11 a.m.
The place was abuzz with anticipation. And as Sunday moved down the aisle toward the front rows, he saw that other than an empty director’s chair onstage, there wasn’t a seat to be had, standing room only.
When he reached the front row, Sunday saw students sitting on the floor in front of the stage. He smiled, moved through them, and bounded up the stairs onto the stage, where he shook hands with the tweedy-looking, gray-bearded fellow waiting.
“Sorry I’m running late, Dr. Wolk,” Sunday said.
“I’m just out of class myself,” the man said. “Shall I introduce you?”
“Please,” Sunday replied, and bobbed his head with deference.
Dr. Wolk turned on the microphone and tapped it twice before saying, “Good morning. I am David Wolk, chairman of Georgetown’s philosophy department, and I’d like to welcome you once again to the Spring Series of Lectures by Diverse Scholars.”
He smiled and went on: “They say the study of philosophy is not relevant to the real world, but as this crowd shows, that’s not true. The creative, resourceful application of philosophical methods to modern problems can be penetrating —groundbreaking, even. Today’s guest, who has a PhD in philosophy from Harvard, does just this sort of startling, innovative, and controversial work.
“His first book, published earlier this year, was The Perfect Criminal, a fascinating look at two unsolved mass-murder cases told through the eyes of a truly original thinker focused on the depths of the criminal soul.
“Please welcome Marcus Sunday.”
Sunday grinned, stood, and took the mike from Dr. Wolk.
Facing the clapping audience, the writer scanned the crowd, his gaze hesitating only briefly on an extremely sexy woman, there in the second row. She had a bemused look about her. Curly, dirty-blond hair hung down over her shoulders and a well-filled white tank top. A colorful sleeve tattoo covered her left arm, depicting a black panther lying on a blooming branch in the jungle. The panther’s tail roamed down the woman’s forearm and crossed her wrist. The cat had bewitching green eyes, the color of new, wet clover. So did she.
“Five years ago, I set out to find the perfect criminal,” Sunday began, forcing himself to look away from her. “To my knowledge he’d never been studied, never been identified. That made sense, because if he was perfect, he would never get caught. Right?”
There was nervous laughter in the room, and nods of agreement.
“So how do you find perfect criminals?” Sunday asked, looking around the room and seeing no confident faces. He focused on that young woman with the ruby lips and the startling clover eyes.
She shrugged, said in a light Cajun accent, “Look at unsolved crimes?”
“Excellent,” Sunday said, dropping his head toward his left shoulder. “That is exactly what I did.”
The writer went on to describe two unsolved mass murders that had become the heart of his book. Seven years earlier, the five members of the Daley family of suburban Omaha had been found slain at home two nights before Christmas. Except for the wife, they were all found in their beds. Their throats had all been cut with a scalpel or razor. The wife had died similarly, but in the bathroom, and naked. The house doors had either been unlocked, or the killer had had a key. It had snowed during the night and all tracks were buried. Police had found no valuable evidence.
Fourteen months later, the Monahan family of suburban Fort Worth was discovered in a similar state in the aftermath of a violent storm: a father and four children under the age of thirteen were found with their throats slit in their beds. The wife was naked, dead on the bathroom floor. The doors had either been unlocked or the killer had had a key. Again, because of rain and high winds, and the killer’s meticulous methods, police had found no usable evidence, DNA or otherwise.
“I became interested because of that lack of evidence, that void,” Sunday informed his rapt audience. “After traveling to Nebraska and Texas several times, going to the scenes, reading the files, and interviewing every investigator who worked the cases —FBI, Nebraska State Police, Texas Rangers —I came away understanding that other than the carnage the killer had left, the cases were black holes.”
Sunday said that the dearth of evidence had forced him to backtrack and theorize about the philosophical world-view of a perfect killer.
“I came to the conclusion that he had to be an existentialist of some twisted sort,” the writer said. “Someone who does not believe in God or any kind of moral or ethical basis for life, someone who thinks there is no meaning to be found in the world beyond what he alone gives to it.”
Sunday slowed, seeing he’d lost a few in his audience, and changed tack.
“What I’m saying is that the Russian novelist Fyodor Dostoyevsky almost got it right,” he went on. “In his masterwork, Crime and Punishment, the central character, Raskolnikov, nearly pulls off the perfect crime. Raskolnikov decides life is meaningless and he kills a man no one cares about for money.
“At first he’s fine with it,” Sunday continued, and tapped his head. “But eventually Raskolnikov’s mind, specifically his imagination, does him in. Because Raskolnikov can imagine a moral, ethical universe where life has actual meaning, he breaks. Not so, our perfect criminal.”
The writer paused, seeing that he held his audience again, before pushing on.
“The perfect killer, I believe, understands clearly that life is meaningless, absurd, without absolute value. As long as the criminal operates from this perspective, he can’t be tripped up by his own mind, and he can’t be caught.”
Sunday went on in this vein for some time, explaining how the evidence surrounding the murder scenes supported his theories and led to others.
He left time at the end for questions. After several nitpickers fixated on minor notes in the book, the sexy woman in the second row batted her clover eyes and raised her panther tattoo as if she were languidly summoning a waiter.
The writer nodded to her.
“The reviews you got were pretty solid,” she said in that rich southern voice. “Except for the one that Detective Alex Cross wrote in the Post. I think you’ll agree he trashed it, disagreed with almost everything you said. Claimed you changed his words after you interviewed him to fit your thesis.”
Sunday gritted his teeth a moment before replying, “Miss, as any journalist will tell you, sources saying they didn’t say something are commonplace. What Detective Cross and I have is a strong difference of opinion. Nothing more.”
After a long moment of awkwardness, Dr. Wolk cleared his throat, said, “I have a question, Dr. Sunday. As I indicated, I found your book riveting, but I, too, have a quibble about one of your conclusions.”
Sunday forced a smile onto his face. “Which one is that, Doctor?”
“At one point in the book you describe the antithesis of the perfect criminal,” Dr. Wolk replied. “A detective who believes in and is emblematic of the moral, ethical universe, and so of a meaningful life.”
“But I was surprised at your suggestion that someone like your perfect detective could be made to see that life was meaningless and valueless, and . . .”
“In so doing become a perfect criminal himself?” Sunday asked. “Yes. I wrote that. I believe that it logically follows, Doctor. Don’t you?”
Copyright © 2013 by James Patterson
Read by Michael Boatman & Tom Wopat