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
A GOOD FRIEND OF MINE, LIEUTENANT ADAM NU, WAS THE SWAT COMMANDER on duty that night. He was the kind of guy who was always thinking ahead. After hearing the weather report earlier, he’d ordered his men to erect tarps and wind blocks behind the two MPD vans. They’d put down outdoor carpet over the snow already on the ground, then run extension cords and put lights up as well. A gas-fired construction heater had been brought in and was blowing two hundred thousand BTUs as members of his team sorted their gear. And he had an extra pair of black tactical boots and wool socks.
“You certainly know how to prepare for a blizzard, Adam,” I said, sitting on a bench inside the makeshift shelter and changing socks.
“Raised in Duluth by a father who loved ice fishing,” Nu said, shrugging.
“You have men already deployed?” I asked.
Nu confirmed that he had several men set up at different distances and places around the Nicholsons’ house. The snow made it impossible to put our people on the roofs of the adjacent homes, the ideal locations. But he had men trying to track down the absentee owners to get permission to enter their homes. That way, the officers could take up window positions, where they might be able to peer inside the Nicholsons’ residence with binoculars or thermal imaging systems.
Nu also had heavily armored SWAT officers constantly circling the house along the perimeter of the property. They each carried a SIG SAUER P226, a high-powered rifle with precision location.
“Shouldn’t those guys be set up to snipe?” McGoey asked.
“I have enough,” Nu said. “And FBI research has shown that moving men keep the perp off balance. Sometimes confuses him into revealing himself.”
“Floor plans?” I asked.
“Ramiro’s got a copy inside,” Nu said, and we entered the van on the left.
Detective Diego Ramiro, another friend, as well as a hostage negotiator with far more experience than me, was one of three people in the van who were speed-dialing the landline inside the Nicholson home and the cell phones belonging to the doctor, his wife, and the wife of Congressman Brandywine.
For all we knew, Fowler had seized all phones. For all we knew, Fowler enjoyed the nonstop ringing. That’s just how variable and bizarre these family hostage situations can be.
Ramiro, a thickly built guy in his early fifties, punched off his own cell, looked at me in extreme frustration, and said, “Alex, we can’t do a goddamned thing if this son of a bitch won’t pick up his phone and talk to us.”
I’d worked with Ramiro before. He wasn’t one to lose his cool. Then again, like me, like everyone there, he wasn’t home on Christmas Eve. We were all stuck in a blizzard, waiting for a lunatic to answer the phone.
I said, “How long have we been calling Fowler?”
Diego flipped through his notepad. “We started almost an hour ago.”
McGoey said, “That’s when Fowler was real chatty about who he had in there and what kinds of guns and ammo he had.”
“Keep talking to him,” I said. “Leave messages. Every single time.”
Ramiro nodded, gave the order to the others. I sat there listening for several moments, wishing to God I had more information on Fowler. What had taken him from a life as a wealthy attorney to this desperate hour?
I’d no sooner asked myself that question when Ramiro waved his finger at me and McGoey, then hit a button on his mobile. It was connected wirelessly to speakers inside the van. We heard a woman’s muffled voice, noises, and then a whimper. We held our breath and stared at the speakers as if they were video monitors.
“Mr. Fowler?” Ramiro began. “Thank you for—”
Gunshots exploded on the other end of the line.
The Christmas horror show had begun—or maybe it had just ended.
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