Little, Brown and Company
It's Christmas Eve and Detective Alex Cross has been called out to catch someone who's robbing his church's poor box. That mission behind him, Alex returns home to celebrate with Bree, Nana, and his children. The tree decorating is barely underway before his phone rings again—a horrific hostage situation is quickly spiraling out of control. Away from his own family on the most precious of days, Alex calls upon every ounce of his training, creativity, and daring to save another family. Alex risks everything—and he may not make it back alive on this most sacred of family days. Alex Cross is a hero for our time, and never more so than in this story of family, action, and the deepest moral choices. MERRY CHRISTMAS, ALEX CROSS will be a holiday classic for years to come.
Little, Brown and Company
Book One | MERRY CHRISTMAS, ALEX
THEY SAY IT’S GOOD LUCK IF IT SNOWS ON CHRISTMAS EVE. I DIDN’T USUALLY buy into that kind of folk wisdom, but if it turned out to be true, well, this was looking like it’d be one of the best Christmases ever. A nor’easter was churning its way up the Carolinas at the same time as a cold front was diving south out of Ontario, all the makings for a monster storm along the Eastern Seaboard.
Sampson and I brought Lewis in and booked him. Since there were no arraignments scheduled until the day after tomorrow, it looked like the man of the year would be waiting for Santa in a holding cell this Yuletide season.
It was nearly eight by the time we finished up the paperwork and left.
“Merry Christmas, Alex,” Sampson said outside.
“You too, John. Feel like stopping by for a holiday beverage tomorrow?”
“I’ll check with my scheduler,” Sampson said.
I took a cab home. As the taxi moved through DC, I looked out at the decorations glowing everywhere. The pace of the snow hadn’t increased much yet, but the size of the flakes had. They were each about the diameter of a quarter, and thick, making the city look the way it does in those snow globes tourists buy at Union Station and the airports.
By the time I reached our house on Fifth Street in Southeast, it was close to eight thirty. The air smelled of pecan pie. Bree and the kids were busy finishing trimming the tree, which was in the alcove by the window at the front of the house. And of course, the official sergeant-of-all-holidays, Nana Mama, was supervising every little task on her to-do list.
“Don’t put two green ornaments right next to each other, Damon. Show some style when you decorate a tree,” she scolded with all the authority of the vice principal she’d once been.
Bree was hooking a faded crayon drawing of the Three Wise Men up on one of the branches. According to legend, I had made that ornament when I was in kindergarten, and Nana always dragged it out on Christmas.
“Well, look who’s come in from the snowstorm,” Bree said, and she walked over and gave me a kiss on the lips. “Hello, sweetheart.”
Nana decided not to look in my direction. All she said was “Is there a faint possibility, Alex, that you might spend a few minutes of the holiday season with your family? Or are we asking too much?”
I should have had the wisdom to say nothing to Nana, to just give her a Christmas kiss, but I’ll never learn. She pushes my buttons like nobody else on this earth.
“Thanks for the guilt! All wrapped up in a bow for Christmas,” I said, dispensing hugs to my daughter, Jannie; my son Damon, who was home on winter break from prep school; and then Ava, the foster child Nana had recently brought under our roof.
“You’re getting a dose of sense, fool,” Nana Mama snapped.
“Nana, this morning, when I got that jingle from Father Harris, he told me that you were the one who suggested he call me to help catch the poor-box thief,” I said. “Which I did.”
“Father Harris said that?” Nana asked.
“He did. He said that he hated to pester me on Christmas Eve, but you told him it would be no bother. Wouldn’t take any time at all for your grandson to solve the case of the poor-box pilferer.”
“Humph,” she said, shaking her head. “Imagine a priest making up something that. Father Harris of all people. Then again, you never know.” She reached in a box, turned to Ava. “Here you go, sweet thing. Put this porcelain Baby Jesus on a low branch, so if it falls, it doesn’t fall far.”
“So you’re saying that Father Harris lied to me on Christmas Eve, Nana?”
She scowled, squinted at me. “I’m saying it’s a pitiful state of the world when a man can’t be with his family on Christmas Eve. Even a high-and-mighty homicide detective such as yourself needs to be home with his loved ones the night before Jesus’s birthday.”
Everyone was chuckling at Nana giving me such a hard time. I was holding back a smile myself. So was she.
“Kind of sucks Ali’s not here,” Jannie said, speaking of my six-year-old son.
“It does,” I replied. “But his mom celebrates Christmas too.”
Bree said, “I’ll be right back,” and left the room. I had to admit that the tree looked pretty great against the snowy picture window. Then Bree reappeared with a big glass bowl of homemade eggnog, another Christmas Eve tradition in our house.
The eggnog had big globs of nutmeg-sprinkled real whipped cream in it, so rich and sweet, each cupful would probably register a couple thousand calories. She set the bowl beside a plate of shortbread cookies that also probably registered a couple thousand calories each. But, hey, it was the Christmas season. I helped myself to two rounds of both. Damon got a Christmas-music station up on Pandora, whatever that was, and old Nat King Cole was crooning that all our troubles would soon be out of sight. Even though Nana wouldn’t let up about me working on Christmas Eve, it was looking like it’d be a warm, wonderful night.
When the song switched to Mariah Carey’s “All I Want for Christmas Is You,” Jannie and Ava and Bree started dancing. Damon began telling me about an incredible true story he was reading at school, about Teddy Roosevelt going up the Amazon River with his son.
Then my cell phone rang.
Not even Mariah’s transcendent voice could stop that sound from sucking the joy right out of the room.
I hung my head, avoided eye contact, went into the hall, and answered. It was deputy chief of police Allen Chivers. “Am I interrupting Christmas Eve?”
“Yup,” I said.
“Hate doing this, Alex. But we’ve got a bad one. The kind of thing that only you seem able to handle.”
I listened another full minute, leaning my head against the wall, knowing just how silent the house had gone. “Okay,” I said. “I’ll get there.” I clicked off, went back. Nana rolled her eyes. The kids looked away from me with here-we-go-again expressions on their faces.
Bree shook her head and said, “Well, there it is, then. Merry Christmas, Alex Cross.”
Copyright © 2012 by James Patterson
Audiobook (Unabridged CD)
Read by Michael Boatman, Stephen Kunken & Cristin Milioti
Michael Boatman is an Image Award-nominated American actor and writer. He is best known for his roles as U.S. Army Specialist Samuel Beckett in the drama series China Beach, as New York City mayoral aide Carter Heywood in the sitcom Spin City, and as sports agent Stanley Babson in the comedy series Arli$$.
Stephen Kunken is an American actor, best known for his work in theatre. His Broadway credits include Frost/Nixon, Rock 'n' Roll, and Enron, for which he received a Tony Award nomination for Featured Actor in a Play.
Cristin Milioti is currently starring in her Tony nominated role as 'Girl' in the Broadway smash hit musical Once. The critically acclaimed show has won numerous accolades along with eight Tony Awards, including Best Musical. Milioti's next project is the upcoming Martin Scorsese film The Wolf of Wall Street where she plays opposite Leonardo DiCaprio. Recent roles include a hilarious turn on 30 Rock as the sexy, baby-voiced writer, "Abby Flynn," and the straight laced sister of Mike Birbiglia's character in the recent indie hit Sleepwalk with Me.
Little, Brown and Company