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Hope to Die

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.

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The First 4 Chapters

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Part One | SIXTEEN DAYS EARLIER...

Chapter 5

MUCH LATER THAT SAME day, Kevin Olmstead, a soft-featured man in his late twenties, spotted the neon sign of the Superior Spa, a massage parlor on Connecticut Avenue reputed to offer “happy endings.”

Happy endings, Olmstead thought, running his fingers delicately over his smooth skin. Despite all the craziness in his head, he still knew the enduring value of a happy ending. He had enough money in his pocket, didn’t he? He seemed to remember withdrawing cash from an ATM sometime that day.

Was that real? Do I still have the money?

Olmstead stopped, blinking, trying to get his thoughts on track again, a common problem recently. Then he dug in the right front pocket of his jeans, pulled out a wad of cash. He smiled again. He wasn’t losing the old noodle when it came to sex or money.

Excited now, he hurried toward the massage parlor.

A man in a business suit, no tie, darted out the front door, looked furtively at Olmstead, and then scurried past him. Something about the man’s demeanor activated searing memories of another massage parlor and another night.

Olmstead remembered most vividly the smell of citrus cleaner. And he vaguely recalled five bodies: three women in bathrobes, a Cuban in a striped bowling shirt and porkpie hat, and a white guy in a cheap business suit, no tie, all shot at close range, all bleeding from head wounds.

Pain ripped through Olmstead’s own skull, almost buckling him on the sidewalk. Was that real? Had that happened? Were there five people dead in a massage parlor in . . . where? Florida?

Or was that all a hallucination? Some blip in his meds?

Olmstead’s mind surfed to another memory: a hand putting a Glock 21 pistol into a backpack. Was it the backpack on his shoulder? Was that his hand?

He looked at his hands and was surprised to see that he wore flesh-colored latex gloves. He was about to check the backpack when the front door of the Superior Spa opened.

A young Asian woman looked out at him, smiled luridly in red hot pants, stiletto heels, and a T-shirt that said goddess spelled out in glitter.

“It okay,” she said in halting English. “We no bite. You want come inside?”

Happy endings, Olmstead thought, and went toward her feeling an overwhelming sense of gratitude for the invitation.

Everything about the Superior Spa was a marvel to Olmstead, even the thumping rap music. But what entranced him most was the smell of citrus disinfectant. As one might with a freshly baked pie, he sniffed long and deep, flashing on the image of those corpses in Florida. Were they real? Was this?

He looked at the little thing in the red hot pants, said, “Any other girls working tonight?”

She pouted, poked him in the ribs. “What, you no like for me?”

“Oh, I like you fine, Little Thing. Just looking at options.”

A big, hard-looking man in a black T-shirt came out from behind the maroon curtain. A second Asian woman followed him. Scrawnier than Little Thing, she gazed at Olmstead with pink, watery, vacant eyes.

“See anything you like, bro?” the big guy asked.

“I like them both,” Olmstead said.

“You think this is Bangkok or something? Make a choice.”

“Cost?”

“Shower, soapy table, massage, seventy-five to me,” the bouncer replied. “Anything extra, you talk to the girl. Anything extra, you pay the girl.”

Olmstead nodded, pointed at Little Thing, who looked overjoyed.

The bouncer said, “Seventy-five and you gotta check your pack, bro.”

Olmstead went soft-lidded, nodded. “Lemme get my wallet.”

He swung the pack off his shoulder, set it on one of the plastic chairs, and unstrapped the top flap. He drew back the toggle that held shut the main compartment and tugged the pouch open. There was his wallet deep inside. And a beautiful Glock 21.

Was that a suppressor on the barrel? Was the weapon real? Was any of this?

Olmstead sure hoped so as he drew out the pistol. When it came to happy endings, a wet dream was rarely as satisfying as the real thing.

Copyright © 2013 by James Patterson

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Read by Michael Boatman & Tom Wopat

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