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I, Alex Cross

The best—and scariest!—Alex Cross novel since Along Came a Spider!

You can't run
Detective Alex Cross is pulled out of a family celebration and given the awful news that a beloved relative has been found brutally murdered. Alex vows to hunt down the killer, and soon learns that she was mixed up in one of Washington's wildest scenes. And she was not this killer's only victim.

You can't hide
The hunt for the murderer leads Alex and his girlfriend, Detective Brianna Stone, to a place where every fantasy is possible, if you have the credentials to get in. Alex and Bree are soon facing down some very important, very protected, very dangerous people in levels of society where only one thing is certain—they will do anything to keep their secrets safe.

Alex Cross is your only hope to stay alive
As Alex closes in on the killer, he discovers evidence that points to the unimaginable—a revelation that could rock the entire world. With the unstoppable action, unforeseeable twists, and edge-of-your-seat suspense that only a James Patterson thriller delivers, I, Alex Cross is the master of suspense at his sharpest and best.

Part One | FIRESTORM

Chapter 6

AGENT CORMORANT WALKED forward and took a standing position next to the vice president. It was an odd move, and Reese's gut tightened another notch. He was chief of staff—there was very little that the Secret Service should know about ahead of him. But they clearly did in this case. What in the name of god had happened? To whom had it happened?

The vice president nodded for Cormorant to go ahead and speak.

"Thank you, sir. Gabe, keeping what I'm about to tell you to yourself probably constitutes a felony. You need to know that before I—"

"Just spit it out, Dan."

Gabe Reese liked Cormorant well enough, just not the way he pushed the bounds of his position. Tillman had brought both of them along, all the way up from the old days of Philadelphia politics, so there was some leeway to be expected here. It was just that Cormorant always seemed to make a little more of it than Reese thought he should. Then again, Cormorant probably thought Reese lived with a stick up his ass.

"Have you ever heard the name Zeus mentioned in any work-related context?" the agent asked. "Zeus, as in the greek god."

Reese thought for a moment. Secret Service had revolving code names for all protectees, but that certainly wasn't a familiar one, and, of course, it would have to be a higher-up. He shook his head. "I don't think so. Should I have?"

Cormorant didn't answer the question, merely continued. "over the past six months, there have been a series of missing-persons cases all over the mid-Atlantic region. Mostly women, but a few men too, and all of them in a certain profession, if you follow me, which I'm sure you do. So far, nothing's connected them."

"Until now," Reese inferred aloud. "What the hell is going on?"

"Our intel division has three separate communications intercepts linking this tag, Zeus, to three separate cases. last night, it came up again, but on a known homicide this time." He paused for emphasis. "All of this is classified, of course."

Reese felt his patience slipping fast. "What does this have to do with the vice president? Or the president—since you've called me in? I'm not even sure we should be having this conversation."

Tillman spoke up then, cutting through the bullshit as usual. "This Zeus, whoever it is, has some kind of connection to the White House, Gabe."

"What?" Suddenly Reese was up and out of his chair. "What kind of connection? What are you saying—exactly? What the hell is going on here?"

"We don't know," Cormorant said. "That's the first part of the fucking problem. The second is shielding the administration from whatever this is going to be."

"Your job is covering the president and vice president, not the entire administration," Reese shot back, his voice rising.

Cormorant stood firm, both arms folded across his chest. "My job is to investigate and prevent any potential threat—"

"Both of you, please shut it!" Tillman's voice rose to a shout. "We're all together on this or the meeting is terminated right now. You got that? Both of you?"

They answered in unison. "Yes, sir."

"Dan, I already know what you think. Gabe, I want your honest opinion. I'm not at all sure we should keep this quiet. It could very easily come back to bite us, and we're not talking about censure or a slap on the wrist here. Not with this Congress. Not with the press either. And surely not if this actually involves murder."

Murder? Dear god, Reese thought.

He ran a hand through his hair, which had been silver since his midtwenties. "Sir, I'm not sure that an off-the-cuff answer to a question like this is in your best interests, or the president's. Is this a rumor? Are there hard facts to substantiate it? What facts? Does the president know yet?"

"The problem is that we know very little at this juncture. Goddamnit, Gabe, what does your gut tell you? I know you have an opinion. And no, the president doesn't know. We know."

Tillman was big on gut, and he was right; Reese did already have an opinion.

"Going public is a bell that can't be unrung. We should find out what we can, within a very limited time frame. Say two or three days. Or until you specify otherwise, sir," he added for Agent Cormorant's benefit. "And we'll need an exit strategy. Something to distance ourselves when and if any story comes out before we want it to."

"I agree, sir," Cormorant put in. "We're way too much in the dark right now, and that is unacceptable."

Tillman took a deep breath that Reese read as both resignation and assent. "I want you two working together on this. No phone calls, though, and for god's sake, no e-mails. Dan, can you assure me that absolutely none of this goes through the Crisis Center?"

"I can, sir. I'll have to speak to a few of my men. But it can be contained. For a while."

"Gabe, you mentioned exit strategies?"

"Yes, sir."

"Think dimensionally here, all possible scenarios. Anticipate everything. And I mean everything."

"I will, sir. My mind is going at about a million miles an hour right now."

"Good man. Any other questions?"

Reese had already started scanning his memory for historical or legal precedent, more out of habit than anything. There were no questions of loyalty here. His only reservation was situational. Good god Almighty—if there was a serial killer connected to the White House? Any kind of killer?

"Sir, if there's word out on this, what's to keep anyone else—god forbid a reporter—from picking up on it?"

Cormorant looked offended, but he let the vice president answer.

"It's the Secret Service, Gabe. We're not talking about an open-source intelligence here." Cormorant stood down and Reese tensed.

"But that's not the kind of insurance I'm going to depend on either. I want this done fast, gentlemen. Fast and clean and thorough. We need some real facts. And clarity. We need to find out who the hell Zeus is and what he's done, and then we have to deal with it like it never happened."

Copyright © 2009 by James Patterson

Read by Tim Cain & Michael Cerveris

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