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A spate of elaborate murders in Washington, D.C. have the whole East Coast on edge. They are like nothing Alex Cross and his new girlfriend, Detective Brianna Stone, have ever seen. With each murder, the case becomes increasingly complex. There’s only one thing Alex knows: the killer adores an audience.
As victims are made into gruesome spectacles citywide, inducing a media hysteria, it becomes clear to Alex that the man he’s after is a genius of terror–and he’s after fame. The killer has the whole city by its strings–and he’ll stop at nothing to become the most terrifying star that Washington ,D.C. has ever seen.
Table of Contents
A Preview of Cross Country
A Preview of Cross Justice
About the Author
Books by James Patterson
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For Kyle Craig, the real Kyle,
one of the straightest shooters around
and a good friend
IN YOUR HONOR
AT THE TIME of his formal sentencing in Alexandria, Virginia, for eleven known murders, the former FBI agent and pattern killer Kyle Craig, known as the Mastermind, was lectured and condescended to by U.S. District Judge Nina Wolff. At least that's the way he took the judicial scolding, and he definitely took it personally, and very much to heart.
"Mr. Craig, you are, by any criteria I know, the most evil human being who has ever come before me in this courtroom, and some despicable characters have come—"
Craig interrupted, "Thank you so very much, Judge Wolff. I'm honored by your kind and, I'm quite sure, thoughtful words. Who wouldn't be pleased to be the best? Do continue. This is music to my ears."
Judge Wolff nodded calmly, then went on as if Craig hadn't spoken a word.
"In reparation for these unspeakable murders and repeated acts of torture, you are hereby sentenced to death. Until such sentence is carried out, you will spend the remainder of your life in a supermaximum-security prison. Once there, you will be cut off from human contact as most of us know it. You will never see the sun again. Take him out of my sight!"
"Very dramatic," Kyle Craig called to Judge Wolff as he was escorted from the courtroom, "but it's not going to happen that way. You've just given yourself a death sentence.
"I will see the sun again, and I'll see you, Judge Wolff. You can bet on it. I'll see Alex Cross again. For sure, I will see Alex Cross. And his charming family. You have my word on it, my solemn promise before all these witnesses, this pathetic audience of thrill seekers and press hyenas, and all the rest of you who honor me with your presence today. You haven't seen the last of Kyle Craig."
In the audience, among the "thrill seekers and press hyenas," was Alex Cross. He listened to his former friend's empty threats. And yet he couldn't help hoping that ADX Florence was as secure as it was supposed to be.
FOUR YEARS TO THE DAY LATER, Kyle Craig was still being held, or perhaps smothered was the more apt description, in the maximum-security prison in Florence, Colorado, about a hundred miles from Denver. He hadn't seen the sun in all that time. He was cut off from most human contact. His anger was growing, blossoming, and that was a terrifying thing to consider.
His fellow inmates included the Unabomber—Ted Kaczynski; Oklahoma City conspirator Terry Nichols; and Al Qaeda terrorists Richard Reid and Zacarias Moussaoui. None of them had required much sunblock lately either. The prisoners were kept locked away in soundproof, seven-by-twelve concrete cells for twenty-three hours every day, completely isolated from anyone other than their lawyers and high-security guards. The solitary experience at ADX Florence had been compared to "dying every single day."
Even Kyle admitted that escaping from Florence was a daunting challenge, maybe impossible. In fact, none of the prisoners inside had ever succeeded, or even come close. Still, one could only hope, one could dream, one could plot and exercise the old imagination. One could most definitely plan a little revenge.
His case was currently on appeal, and his lawyer from Denver, Mason Wainwright, visited once a week. This day, he arrived as he always did, promptly at four p.m.
Mason Wainwright sported a long silver-gray ponytail, scuffed black cowboy boots, and a cowboy hat worn jauntily back on his head. He had on a buckskin jacket, a snakeskin belt, and large horn-rimmed glasses that gave him the appearance of a rather studious country-and-western singer, or a country-and-western-loving college professor, take your pick. He seemed a curious choice as an attorney, but Kyle Craig had a reputation for brilliance, so the selection of Wainwright wasn't seriously questioned.
Craig and the lawyer hugged when Wainwright arrived. As he usually did, Kyle whispered near the lawyer's ear, "There's no videotaping permitted in this room? That rule is still in force? You're sure of it, Mr. Wainwright?"
"There's no videotape," answered Wainwright. "You have attorney-client privilege, even in this pathetic hellhole. I'm sorry that I can't do more for you. I sincerely apologize for that. You know how I feel about you."
"I don't question your loyalty, Mason."
Following the hug, Craig and the lawyer sat on opposite sides of a gray metal conference table, which was bolted securely to the concrete floor. So were the chairs.
Kyle now asked the lawyer eight specific questions, always the same questions, in session after session. He asked them rapidly, leaving no time for any answers by his attorney, who just sat there in respectful silence.
"That great consoler of mass-murdering prisoners, Truman Capote, once said that he was afraid of two things, and two things only. So which of these is worse, betrayal or abandonment?" Kyle Craig began, then went right to the next question.
"What was the very first thing you forced yourself not to cry over, and how old were you when it occurred?"
And then, "Tell me this, Counselor: what is the average length of time it takes a drowning person to lose consciousness?
"Here's something I'm curious about—do most murders take place indoors or out?
"Why is laughing at a funeral considered unacceptable, while crying at a wedding is not?
"Can you hear the sound of one hand clapping if all the flesh is removed from the hand?
"How many ways are there to skin a cat, if you wish it to remain alive through the entire process?
"And, oh yes, how are my Boston Red Sox doing?"
Then there was silence between Kyle and the lawyer. Occasionally, the convicted murderer would ask a few more specifics—perhaps additional detail about the Red Sox or about the Yankees, whom he despised, or about some interesting killer working on the outside whom the lawyer had informed him about.
Then came another hug as Mason Wainwright was about to leave the room.
The lawyer whispered against Kyle's cheek. "They're ready to go. The preparations are complete. There will be important doings in Washington, DC, soon. There will be payback. We expect a large audience. All in your honor."
Kyle Craig didn't say anything to this news, but he put his index fingers together and pressed them hard against the lawyer's skull. Very hard indeed, and he made an unmistakable impression that traveled instantly to Mason Wainwright's brain.
The fingers were in the shape of a cross.
ALL THE WORLD'S A STAGE
The first story, a thriller, involved an Iraqi soldier and a crime writer. This soldier was observing a twelve-story luxury apartment building, and he was thinking, So this is how the rich and famous live. Stupidly at best, and very dangerously for sure.
He began his checklist of possibilities for a break-in.
The service entrance at the back of the superluxury River-walk apartment building was rarely, if ever, used by the residents, or even by their sullen lackeys. More secluded than the main entry or the underground parking garage, it was also more vulnerable.
A single reinforced door showed off no external hardware. The frame was wired on all sides.
Any attempt at forced entry would trigger simultaneous alarms at the Riverwalk's main office and with dispatch at a private security firm based just a few blocks away.
Static overhead cameras monitored all deliveries and other foot traffic during the day.
Use of the entrance was forbidden after seven p.m., when motion detectors were also engaged.
None of this was a serious problem, the soldier believed. Actually, it was an advantage for him.
Yousef Qasim had been a captain for twelve years with the Mukhabarat under Saddam. He had a sixth sense about such things, anything to do with the illusion of security. Qasim could see what the Americans could not—that their love of technology made them complacent and blind to danger. His best way into the Riverwalk was also the easiest.
Garbage was the answer. Qasim knew it was carried out every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday afternoon, without fail. American efficiency, so valued here, was another of the luxury building's vulnerabilities.
Efficiency was predictability.
Predictability was weakness.
SURE ENOUGH, at 4:34 p.m. the door to the service entrance opened from inside. A tall black lackey in stained green coveralls and a silver Afro latched a chain from inside the door to a hook on the outside wall. His flatbed dolly, loaded with bulging plastic garbage bags, was too wide to negotiate the opening.
The man moved slowly, lazily carrying two bags at a time to a pair of commercial Dumpsters at the far end of a covered loading dock.
This man is still a slave to the whites, Qasim thought to himself. And look at him—the pathetic shuffle, the downcast eyes. He knows it too. He hates his job and the terrible people in the Riverwalk building.
Qasim watched closely, and he counted. Twelve paces away from the door, nine seconds to throw the garbage bags in, then back again.
On the man's third trip, Qasim slipped by him unnoticed. And if his own cap and green coveralls weren't enough to fool the camera, it was no crucial matter. He'd be long gone by the time anyone came to investigate the security breach.
He found the poorly lit service stairs easily enough. Qasim took the first flight cautiously, then ran up the next three. Actually, the running released pent-up adrenaline, which was useful to get under control.
On the fourth-floor landing was an unused utility closet, where he stashed the garment bag he had carried in, then continued up to twelve.
Less than three and a half minutes after entering the luxury building, he stood at the front door to apartment 12F. He gauged his position relative to the peephole in the door. His finger hovered over the buzzer, a recessed white button in the painted brick.
But he went no further than that. He didn't actually push the buzzer today.
Without making a sound, he turned on his heels and left the way he had come. Minutes later, he was back out on the street, busy Connecticut Avenue.
The drill, the rehearsal, had gone fairly well. There were no major issues, no surprises either. And now Qasim jostled along with the rush-hour pedestrian traffic. He was invisible here, just as unseen in this herd as he needed to be.
He felt no impatience for the execution up on the twelfth floor. Patience and impatience were irrelevant to him. Preparation, timing, completion, success: those were the things that mattered.
When the time came, Yousef Qasim would be ready to do his part.
And he would.
One American at a time.
I WAS OUT OF POLICE WORK, and had been for a while now. So far, that was okay with me.
I was standing with my back against the kitchen door, sipping a mug of Nana's coffee, thinking that maybe it was something in the water, but all I knew was this: my three kids were growing up too fast. Blink-of-an-eye stuff. And here's the thing—either you can't stand to even think of your kids leaving home or you can't wait, and I was definitely, firmly, in the former camp.
My youngest, Alex Jr.—Ali—was going to be a kindergartner now. He was a sharp little guy too, who rarely, if ever, shut up except when he knew you wanted to know something from him. His passions at the moment included Animal Planet's Most Extreme, the Washington Nationals baseball team, the Michael Jordan biography Salt in His Shoes, and anything to do with outer space, including a very strange TV show called Gigantor, with even stranger theme music that I couldn't get out of my head.
Preteen Jannie had begun trading in that twiggy body of hers for a set of starter curves. She was our resident artist and actress, and was taking painting classes through the Corcoran ArtReach Program.
And Damon, who had just passed the six-foot-one mark, was looking forward to high school. So far, he didn't whoop and shout or trash-talk, and seemed more generally aware of his surroundings than his peers were. Damon was even being recruited by a couple of prep schools, including a persistent one in Massachusetts.
Things were changing for me too. My private-therapy practice was going pretty well. For the first time in years, my life had nothing "official" to do with law enforcement. I was out of the loop.
Well, almost, anyway. I did have a certain senior homicide detective in my life: Brianna Stone, also known as the Rock, if you asked some of the detectives who worked with her. I'd met Bree at a retirement party for a cop we both knew. We spent the first half hour that night talking about the Job and the next few hours talking about ourselves—kind of crazy things like her "race-hand release" as a paddler on the Dragon Boat Racing Team. By the end of the night, I barely had to ask her out. In fact, as I think about it now, she might have asked me. But then one thing led to another, and another, and I went home with Bree that night and we never looked back. And yes, I think Bree asked me to come home with her that night too.
Bree was fully in control of herself—intense, in all the good ways and none of the bad. And it didn't hurt that she seemed to have a natural chemistry with the kids. They dug her. She was, in fact, right now chasing Ali at Olympic speed through the first floor of the house on Fifth Street, roaring like the child-eating alien she had apparently become, while Ali used a Star Wars lightsaber to keep her at bay. "That sword can't hurt me!" she shouted. "Prepare to eat carpet!"
Bree and I didn't stick around on Fifth Street too long on that particular morning, though. To be honest, if we had stayed there, I probably would have been forced to sneak her upstairs to show her my nonexistent etchings, or maybe my lightsaber.
For the first time since we'd been going out, we had managed to synchronize our schedules for a few days away. I went out the front door loudly singing the end of Stevie Wonder's very first hit, "Fingertips Part 2": "Good-bye, good-bye. Good-bye, good-bye. Good-bye, good-bye, good-bye." I knew the words by heart, one of my gifts.
I winked at Bree and pecked her cheek. "Always leave them laughing," I said.
"Or at least confused," she said, and winked back.
Our destination, Catoctin Mountain Park in Maryland, was on the eastern rampart of the Appalachian Mountains, not too far from Washington—and not too close either. The mountains were perhaps best known as the site of Camp David, but Bree knew about a campground open to mere mortals like us. I couldn't wait to get there and be alone with her.
I could almost feel the thrum of DC move out of my head as we headed north. The windows of my R350 were down, and as always I was loving the ride of this marvelous vehicle. Best buy I'd made in a long time. The great Jimmy Cliff wailed on the stereo. Life was pretty good right at the moment. Hard to beat.
As we zipped along, Bree had a question: "Why the Mercedes?"
"It's comfortable, yes?"
I touched the gas. "Responsive, quick."
"Okay, I get the point."
"But most important, it's safe. I've had enough danger in my life. I don't need it on the road."
At the park entrance, as we were paying for the site, Bree leaned across me to speak to the ranger on duty. "Thanks a lot. We'll be respectful to your park."
"What was that about?" I asked Bree as we pulled away.
"What can I say, I'm an environmentalist."
The campsite was definitely spectacular, and worthy of our respect. It sat on its own little point of land, with shimmering blue water on three sides and nothing but dense forest greenness looming behind. In the far distance, I could see something called Chimney Rock, which we planned on hiking the next day. What I couldn't see was a single other person.
Just the one that mattered, Bree, who happened to be the sexiest woman I'd ever known. Just the sight of her got me going, especially out here on our own.
She took hold of me around the waist. "What could be more perfect than this?"
I couldn't think of anything that would spoil our weekend up here in the woods.
THE STORY, THE THRILLER, CONTINUED. Forty-eight hours after his rehearsal, his flawless walk-through, Yousef Qasim returned to the Riverwalk apartment building, with its wealthy and careless American tenants.
This wasn't practice, though; it was the real thing, and his stomach was queasy. This was a truly big day for him, and for his cause.
Sure enough, at 4:34 p.m. the door to the service entryway opened and the same tall black porter lethargically lugged his garbage bags to the street. Old Black Joe, Qasim thought. Still in chains. Nothing really changes in America, does it? Not in hundreds of years.
Less than five minutes later, Qasim was upstairs on the twelfth floor, standing outside the apartment of a woman named Tess Olsen.
This time he rang the bell. Twice. He had been waiting for this moment for such a long time—months, maybe all his life, if he was honest with himself.
"Yes?" Tess Olsen's eye flickered behind the peephole of 12F. "Who is it?"
Yousef Qasim made sure she saw his coveralls and the cap that said MO. No doubt he would look like any other brown-skinned maintenance worker to this woman—someone who was supposed to notice details in her profession. She was a well-known crime writer after all, and that was important for the story. A crucial detail.
"Mrs. Olsen? There is gas leak in your apartment. Someone call you from office?"
"What? Say again."
His accent was impossibly thick, and English seemed to be torture for him. He spoke slowly, like some kind of idiot. "Gas leak. Please, missus? I can fix leak? Someone call? Tell you I come?"
"I just got home. No one called," she said. "I don't know anything about it. I don't think there was a message. I suppose I can check."
"You like me come back later? Fix gas leak then? You smelling gas?"
The woman sighed with the unconcealed exasperation of a person with too many trivial duties and not enough hired help. "Oh, for God's sake," she said. "Come in, then. Hurry it up. Your timing is just exquisite. I have to finish getting dressed and be out of here in twenty minutes."
At the click of the dead bolt, Yousef Qasim readied himself. The moment the woman cracked the door and he saw both her eyes, he charged forward.
Extreme force was unnecessary in this case, physically speaking, but it had great utility. Tess Olsen fell back several steps and then thumped down hard on her behind. She came right out of her high-heeled pumps, exposing bright-red toenails and long, bony feet.
Before her shock and surprise gave way to a scream, Qasim was on top of her, pressing against her chest with his full body weight. The rectangle of silver duct tape he'd stuck to his pants leg was transferred quickly to the woman's mouth. He put the tape on hard, to show that he meant business and that she would be foolish to resist.
"I mean you no harm," he said, the first of many lies.
Then he flipped her onto her stomach and pulled a red dog leash from his pocket, securing it around her neck. The leash was a key part of the plan. It was inexpensive nylon mesh but more than strong enough.
The leash was a clue, and just the first that he would leave here for the police and for whoever else became interested.
The woman was maybe forty, hair dyed blond, not physically strong, in spite of the fact that she seemed to work out to keep herself thin.
He showed her something now—a box cutter! Very nasty-looking tool. Convincing.
Her eyes widened.
"Get up, you weak coward," he said close to her ear. "Or I will cut your face in ribbons." He knew that the softness of his voice was more threatening than any shouting could be. Also, the fact that his English had suddenly improved would confuse and frighten her.
When she tried to rise, he startled her with a sharp grab at the back of her scrawny neck. He stopped her right there—still on all fours.
"That's quite far enough, Mrs. Olsen. Don't move, not another inch. Be very still, very still. I'm using the box cutter now."
Her expensive black dress fell away as he cut it down the back. Now she trembled uncontrollably and tried to scream from behind her gag. She was prettier without her clothes—firm, somewhat appealing, though not to him.
"Don't worry. I am no dog-style fucker. Now go forward on your knees. Do as I say! This won't take much of your busy day."
She only moaned in response. It took the heel of Yousef's shoe at her backside to get the idea across.
Then finally she began to crawl.
"How do you like it?" he asked. "Suspense. Isn't that what you write about? That's why I'm here, you know. Because you write about crime in your books. Can you solve this one?"
They moved slowly through the kitchen and the dining room, and then into a spacious living room. One entire wall was books, many of them her own. Glass sliding doors at the far end led to a terrace filled with fancy garden furniture and a shiny black grill.
"Look at all your books! I'm very impressed. You wrote all of these? Foreign editions too! You do any translations yourself? Of course you don't! Americans speak only English."
Qasim pulled up sharply on the leash, and Mrs. Olsen fell over onto her side.
"Don't move from there. Stay! I have work to do. Clues to plant. Even you are a clue, Mrs. Tess Olsen. Have you figured it out yet? Solved the mystery?"
He quickly set up the living room just the way he wanted it. Then he returned to the woman, who hadn't moved and who seemed to be getting her part down now.
"Is that you? In this picture?" he asked suddenly, with surprise in his voice. "It is you."
Qasim prodded her chin with his foot to get her to look. A large oil portrait hung above the ornately scrolled sofa. It showed Tess Olsen in a long silver gown, her hand resting on a polished round table with an elaborate floral arrangement. The face was austere, full of unearned pride.
"It doesn't look like you. You're prettier in real life. Sexier without any clothes," he said. "Now, outside! Onto the terrace. You're going to be a very famous lady. I promise. Your fans are waiting."
AFTER QUASIM GAVE ANOTHER STRONG PULL on the leash, Tess Olsen struggled to her feet, then put her arms out, finally gaining some balance so that she could walk, at least.
Everything about this felt so unreal. Trembling, she backed her way onto the terrace—until the iron railing caught the small of her back.
Her whole body shivered. Twelve stories below, rush-hour traffic was crawling along Connecticut Avenue. Pedestrians, hundreds of them, navigated the sidewalks, most of them with their heads down, unaware of what was happening up in the Riverwalk tower. It was perfect symbolism for life in Washington, DC.
Yousef Qasim reached out and tore the tape off the woman's mouth.
"Now, scream," he said. "Scream like you mean it! Scream like you are terrified out of your mind! I want them to hear you in Virginia. In Ohio! In California!"
But the woman spoke to him instead, spoke in a barely intelligible rush. "Please. You don't have to do this. I can help you. I have a lot of money. You can take anything you want from the apartment. I have a safe inside, in the second bedroom. Please, just tell me—"
"What I want, Mrs. Tess Olsen," Qasim said, and held the barrel of a gun up to one of the diamond studs in her ears, "is for you to scream. Very, very loud. Right now! On cue, as it were. Do you follow me? It's a simple instruction—scream!"
But her scream came out as little more than a sob, a pitiful whimper that was swallowed up in the wind.
"Fine," Qasim said, and grabbed the woman's bare legs. "We'll do it your way!" With one powerful hoist, he had her over the railing, hanging upside down.
Now the screams came, high and clear as a security alarm going off. And Tess Olsen clawed at the air for a handhold that simply didn't exist.
The red leash at her neck blew free in the wind like a stream of blood from her jugular. A nice effect, cinematic, Qasim thought. Just what he was looking for. All part of the plan.
Immediately, a crowd began to gather below. People stopped and pointed upward. Some began making cell-phone calls. Others used the phones to snap pictures—pornographic ones, if they stopped to think about it.
Finally Qasim reeled Tess Olsen back in and set her down on the terrace.
"You did very well," he told her, his voice softening. "Beautiful work, and I mean that. Can you believe those people with their cameras? Some world we live in."
Her next words came out in a torrent. "Oh, dear God, please, I don't want to die like this. There has to be something you want. I've never hurt anyone in my life. I don't understand any of this! Please . . . stop."
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