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In this heart-stopping thriller, Detective Alex Cross and his beloved fiancé find themselves tangled in a complex murder investigation, threatening not only public safety, but their chance at happiness together.Alex Cross is happy, but his happiness is threatened by a series of chilling murders—murders with a pattern so twisted, it leaves investigators reeling. Cross's ingenious pursuit of the killer produces a suspect: a British diplomat named Geoffrey Shafer.
But proving that Shafer is the murderer becomes a potentially deadly task. As the diplomat engages in a brilliant series of surprising countermoves, in and out of the courtroom, Alex and his fiancée become hopelessly entangled with the most memorable nemesis Alex Cross has ever faced.
Pop Goes the Weasel reveals James Patterson at the peak of his power. Here is a chilling villain no reader will forget, a love story of great tenderness, and a plot of relentless suspense and heart-pounding pace. To read Pop Goes the Weasel is to discover why James Patterson is one of the world's greatest suspense writers.
Table of Contents
A Preview of Roses Are Red
A Preview of Cross Justice
About the Author
Books by James Patterson
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GEOFFREY SHAFER, dashingly outfitted in a single-breasted blue blazer, white shirt, striped tie, and narrow gray trousers from H. Huntsman & Sons, walked out of his town house at seven-thirty in the morning and climbed into a black Jaguar XJ12.
He backed the Jag slowly out of the driveway, then stepped on the accelerator. The sleek sports car rocketed up to fifty before it reached the stop sign at Connecticut Avenue, in the posh Kalorama section of Washington, D.C.
When Shafer reached the busy intersection, he didn't stop. He floored the accelerator, picking up more speed.
He was doing sixty-five and ached to crash the Jag into the stately fieldstone wall bordering the avenue. He aimed the Jag closer to the wall. He could see the head-on collision, visualize it, feel it all over.
At the last possible second, he tried to avoid the deadly crash. He spun the wheel hard to the left. The sports car fish-tailed all the way across the avenue, tires screeching and burning, the smell of rubber thick in the air.
The Jag skidded to a stop, headed the wrong way on the street, the windshield issuing its glossy black stare at a barrage of early oncoming traffic.
Shafer stepped on the accelerator again and headed forward against the oncoming traffic. Every car and truck began to honk loud, sustained blasts.
Shafer didn't even try to catch his breath or bearings. He sped along the avenue, gaining speed. He zoomed across Rock Creek Bridge and made a left, then another left onto Rock Creek Parkway.
A tiny scream of pain escaped from his lips. It was involuntary, coming swiftly and unexpectedly. A moment of fear, weakness.
He floored the gas pedal again, and the engine roared. He was doing seventy, then pressing to eighty. He zigged and zagged around slower-moving sedans, sport-utility vehicles, a soot-covered A&P delivery truck.
Only a few honked now. Other drivers on the parkway were terrified, scared out of their minds.
He exited the Rock Creek Parkway at fifty miles an hour, then he gunned it again.
P Street was even more crowded at that hour than the parkway had been. Washington was just waking up and setting off to work. He could still see that inviting stone wall on Connecticut. He shouldn't have stopped. He began searching for another rock-solid object, looking for something to hit very hard.
He was doing eighty miles an hour as he approached Dupont Circle. He shot forward like a ground rocket. Two lines of traffic were backed up at a red light. No way out of this one, he thought. Nowhere to go left or right.
He didn't want to rear-end a dozen cars! That was no way to end this—end his life—by smashing into a commonplace Chevy Caprice, a Honda Accord, a delivery truck.
He swerved violently to the left and veered into the lanes of traffic coming east, coming right at him. He could see the panicked, disbelieving faces behind the dusty, grime-smeared windshields. The horns started to blast, a high-pitched symphony of fear.
He ran the next light and just barely squeezed between an oncoming Jeep and a concrete-mixer truck.
He sped down M Street, then onto Pennsylvania Avenue, and headed toward Washington Circle. The George Washington University Medical Center was up ahead—a perfect ending?
The Metro patrol car appeared out of nowhere, its siren-bullhorn screaming in protest, its rotating beacon glittering, signaling for him to pull over. Shafer slowed down and pulled to the curb.
The cop hurried to Shafer's car, his hand on his holster. He looked frightened and unsure.
"Get out of the car, sir," the cop said in a commanding voice. "Get out of the car right now."
Shafer suddenly felt calm and relaxed. There was no tension left in his body.
"All right. All right. I'm getting out. No problem." "You know how fast you were going?" the cop asked in an agitated voice, his face flushed a bright red. Shafer noticed that the cop's hand was still on his gun.
Shafer pursed his lips, thought about his answer. "Well—I'd say about thirty, Officer," he finally said. "Maybe a little over the speed limit."
Then he took out an I.D. card and handed it over. "But you can't do anything about it. I'm with the British Embassy. I have diplomatic immunity."
THAT NIGHT, as he was driving home from work, Geoffrey Shafer started to feel that he was losing control again. He was beginning to frighten himself. His whole life had begun to revolve around a fantasy game he played called the Four Horsemen. In the game, he was the player called Death. The game was everything to him, the only part of his life with real meaning.
He sped across town from the British Embassy, all the way to the Petworth district of Northwest. He knew he shouldn't be there, a white man in a spiffy Jaguar. He couldn't help himself, though, any more than he could that morning.
He stopped the car just before he got to Petworth. Shafer took out his laptop and typed a message to the other players, the Horsemen.
DEATH IS ON THE LOOSE IN WASHINGTON.
THE GAME IS ON.
He started the Jag again and rode a few more blocks to Petworth. The usual outrageously provocative hookers were already parading up and down Varnum and Webster streets. A song called "Nice and Slow" was playing from a vibrating blue BMW Ronnie McCall's sweet voice blended into the early evening.
The girls waved to him and showed their large, flat, pert, or flabby breasts. Several wore colorful bustiers with matching hot pants and shiny silver or red platform shoes with pointy heels.
He slowed to a stop beside a small black girl who looked to be around sixteen and had an unusually pretty face. Her legs were long and slender for such a petite body. She wore too much makeup for his taste. Still, she was hard to resist, so why should he?
"Nice car. Jaguar. I like it a lot," she cooed, then smiled and made a sexy little o with her lipsticked mouth. "You're cute, too, mistah."
He smiled back at her. "Jump in, then. Let's go for a test ride. See if it's true love or just infatuation." He glanced around the street quickly. None of the other girls were working this corner.
"A hundred for full-service, sweetie?" she asked as she wiggled her tight little butt inside the Jag. Her perfume smelled like eau de bubble gum, and she seemed to have bathed in it.
"As I said, get into the car. A hundred dollars is petty cash for me."
He knew he shouldn't be picking her up in the Jaguar, but he took her for a joy ride anyway. He couldn't help himself now.
He brought the girl to a small, wooded park in a part of Washington called Shaw. He parked in a thicket of fir trees that hid the car from sight. He looked at the prostitute, and she was even smaller and younger than he had thought.
"How old are you?" he asked.
"How old you want me to be?" she said, and smiled. "Sweetie, I need the money first. You know how it works."
"Yes. But do you?" he asked.
He reached into his pocket and pulled out a switchblade knife. He had it at her throat in an instant.
"Don't hurt me," she whispered. "Just be cool."
"Get out of the car. Slowly. Don't you dare scream. You be cool."
Shafer got out with her, staying close, the knife still pressed to the hollow of her throat.
"It's all just a game, darling," he explained. "My name is Death. You're a very lucky girl. I'm the best player of all."
As if to prove it, he stabbed her for the first time.
THINGS WERE GOING PRETTY WELL that day. I was driving a bright-orange school bus through Southeast on a blistering-hot morning in late July, and I was whistling a little Al Green as I drove. I was in the process of picking up sixteen boys from their houses and also two foster homes. Door-to-door bus service. Hard to beat.
Just one week earlier I had returned from Boston and the Mr. Smith murder case. Mr. Smith and a deranged killer named Gary Soneji had both been involved in that one. I needed a rest, and I'd taken the morning off to do something I'd been looking forward to for a change.
My partner, John Sampson, and a twelve-year-old named Errol Mignault sat behind me on the bus. John was wearing Wayfarer shades, black jeans, and a black T-shirt that read ALLIANCE OF CONCERNED MEN. SEND DONATIONS TODAY. He is six-nine, a very solid two hundred fifty pounds. We've been friends since we were ten, when I first moved to D.C.
He, Errol, and I were talking about the boxer Sugar Ray Robinson, almost shouting over the bus's blustery, occasionally misfiring engine. Sampson had his huge arm lightly draped over Errol's shoulders. Proper physical contact is encouraged when dealing with these boys.
Finally, we picked up the last little guy on our list, an eight-year-old who lived in Benning Terrace, a tough project known to some of us as Simple City.
As we left the project, an ugly smear of graffiti told visitors everything they needed to know about the neighborhood. It read YOU ARE NOW LEAVING THE WAR ZONE, AND YOU LIVED TO TELL ABOUT IT.
We were taking the boys out to Lorton Prison in Virginia. They would be visiting their fathers for the afternoon. They were all young, between eight and thirteen. The Alliance transports forty to fifty kids each week to see their fathers and mothers in different prisons. The goal is a lofty one: to bring the crime rate in Washington down by a third.
I'd been out to the prison more times than I cared to remember. I knew the warden at Lorton pretty well. A few years back I'd spent a lifetime there, interviewing Gary Soneji.
Warden Marion Campbell had set up a large room on Level One where the boys met with their fathers. It was a powerful scene, even more emotional than I'd expected. The Alliance spends time training the fathers who want to participate in the program. There are four steps: how to show love; accept fault and responsibility; attain parent-and-child harmony; discover new beginnings.
Ironically, the boys were all trying to look and act tougher than they actually were. I heard one boy say, "You weren't in my life before, why should I listen to you now?" But the fathers were trying to show a softer side.
Sampson and I hadn't made the run to Lorton before. It was our first time, but I was already sure I'd do it again. There was so much raw emotion and hope in the room, so much potential for something good and decent. Even if some of it would never be realized, it showed that an effort was being made, and something positive could come from it.
What struck me most was the bond that still existed between some of the fathers and their young sons. I thought about my own boy, Damon, and how lucky we were. The thing about most of the prisoners in Lorton was that they knew what they had done was wrong; they just didn't know how to stop doing it.
For most of the hour and a half, I just walked around and listened. I was occasionally needed as a psychologist, and I did the best I could on short notice. At one little group, I heard a father say, "Please tell your mother I love her and I miss her like crazy." Then both the prisoner and his son broke into tears and hugged each other fiercely.
Sampson came up to me after we'd been in the prison for an hour or so. He was grinning broadly. His smile, when it comes, is a killer. "Man, I love this. Do-gooder shit is the best."
"Yeah, I'm hooked myself. I'll drive the big orange bus again."
"Think it'll help? Fathers and sons meeting like this?" he asked me.
I looked around the room. "I think today, right now, this is a success for these men and their sons. That's good enough."
Sampson nodded. "The old one-day-at-a-time approach. Works for me, too. I am flying, Alex."
So was I, so was I. I'm a sucker for this kind of stuff.
As I drove the young boys home that afternoon, I could see by their faces that they'd had positive experiences with their fathers. The boys weren't nearly as noisy and rambunctious on the way back to D.C. They weren't trying to be so tough. They were just acting like kids.
Almost every one of the boys thanked Sampson and me as he got off the big orange bus. It wasn't necessary. It sure was a lot better than chasing after homicidal maniacs.
The last boy we dropped off was the eight-year-old from Benning Terrace. He hugged both John and me, and then he started to cry. "I miss my dad," he said before running home.
THAT NIGHT, Sampson and I were on duty in Southeast. We're senior homicide detectives, and I'm also liaison between the FBI and the D.C. police. We got a call at about half past midnight telling us to go to the area of Washington called Shaw. There'd been a bad homicide.
A lone Metro squad car was at the murder scene, and the neighborhood psychos had turned out in pretty fair numbers.
It looked like a bizarre block party in the middle of hell. Fires were blazing nearby, throwing off sparks in two trash barrels, which made no sense, given the sweltering heat of the night.
The victim was a young woman, probably between fourteen and her late teens, according to the radio report.
She wasn't hard to find. Her nude, mutilated body had been discarded in a clump of briar bushes in a small park less than ten yards off a paved pathway.
As Sampson and I approached the body, a boy shouted at us from the other side of the crime tape: "Yo, yo, she just some street whore!"
I stopped and looked at him. He reminded me of the boys we'd just transported to Lorton Prison. "Dime-a-dozen bitch. Ain't worth your time, or mine, Dee-fectives," he went on with his disturbing rap.
I walked up to the young wisecracker. "How do you know that? You seen her around?"
The boy backed off. But then he grinned, showing off a gold star on one of his front teeth. "She ain't got no clothes on, an' she layin' on her back. Somebody stick her good. Sure sound like a whore to me."
Sampson eyed the youth, who looked to be around fourteen but might have been even younger. "You know who she is?"
"Hell no!" The boy pretended to be insulted. "Don't know no whores, man."
The boy finally swaggered off, looking back at us once or twice and shaking his head. Sampson and I walked on and joined two uniformed cops standing by the body. They were obviously waiting for reinforcements. Apparently, we were it.
"You call Emergency Services?" I asked the uniforms.
"Thirty-five minutes ago and counting," said the older-looking of the two. He was probably in his late twenties, sporting an attempted mustache and trying to look as if he were experienced at scenes like this one.
"That figures." I shook my head. "You find any I.D. anywhere around here?"
"No I.D. We looked around in the bushes. Nothing but the body," said the younger one. "And the body's seen better days." He was perspiring badly and looked a little sick.
I put on latex gloves and bent down over the corpse. She did appear to be in her mid- to late teens. The girl's throat had been slit from ear to ear. Her face was badly slashed. So were the soles of her feet, which seemed odd. She'd been stabbed a dozen or more times in her chest and stomach. I pushed open her legs.
I saw something that made me sick. A metal handle was barely visible between her legs. I was almost sure it was a knife and that it had been driven all the way into her vagina.
Sampson crouched and looked at me. "What are you thinking, Alex? Another one?"
I shook my head, shrugged my shoulders. "Maybe, but she's an addict, John. Tracks on her arms and legs. Probably behind her knees, under her arms. Our boy doesn't usually go after addicts. He practices safe sex. The murder's brutal, though. That fits the style. You see the metal handle?"
Sampson nodded. He didn't miss much. "Clothes," he said. "Where the hell did they go to? We need to find the clothes."
"Somebody in the neighborhood probably stripped them off her already," said the young uniform. There was a lot of disturbance around the body. Several footprints in the dirt. "That's how it goes around here. Nobody seems to care."
"We're here," I said to him. "We care. We're here for all the Jane Does."
GEOFFREY SHAFER was so happy he almost couldn't hide it from his family. He had to keep from laughing out loud as he kissed his wife, Lucy, on the cheek. He caught a whiff of her Chanel No. 5 perfume, then tasted the brittle dryness of her lips as he kissed her again.
They were standing around like statues in the elegant galley hall of the large Georgian house in Kalorama. The children had been summoned to say good-bye to him.
His wife, the former Lucy Rhys-Cousins, was ash-blond, her sparkling green eyes even brighter than the Bulgari and Spark jewelry that she always wore. Slender, still a beauty of sorts at thirty-seven, Lucy had attended Newnham College at Cambridge for two years before they were married. She read useless poetry and literary novels, and spent most of her free time at equally pointless lunches, shopping with her expatriate girlfriends, going to polo matches, or sailing. Occasionally, Shafer sailed with her. He'd been a very good sailor once upon a time.
Lucy had been considered a prize catch, and he supposed that she still would be, for some men. Well, they could have her skinny, bony ass and all the passionless sex they could stomach.
Shafer hoisted up four-year-old twins Tricia and Erica, one in each arm. Two mirror images of their mother. He'd have sold the twins for the price of a postage stamp. He hugged the girls and laughed like the good papa he always pretended to be.
Then he formally shook twelve-year-old Robert's hand. The debate being waged in the house was over whether Robert should be sent back to England for boarding school, perhaps to Winchester, where his grandfather had gone. Shafer gave his son a crisp military salute. Once upon a time, Colonel Geoffrey Shafer had been a soldier. Only Robert seemed to remember that part of his father's life now.
"I'm only going away to London for a few days, and this is work, not a holiday. I'm not planning to spend my nights at the Athenaeum or anything like that," he told his family. He was smiling jovially, the way they expected him to be.
"Try to have some fun while you're away, Dad. Have some laughs. God knows, you deserve it," Robert said, talking in the lower-octave man-to-man's voice that he seemed to be adopting lately.
"Bye, Daddy! Bye, Daddy," the twins chorused shrilly, making Shafer want to throw them against the walls.
"Bye, Erica-san. Bye, Tricia-san."
"Remember Orc's Nest," Robert said with sudden urgency. "Dragon and The Duelist." Orc's Nest was a store that sold role-playing books and gaming equipment. It was located on Earlham, just off Cambridge Circus in London. Dragon and The Duelist were currently the two hot-shit British magazines covering role-playing games.
Unfortunately for Robert, Shafer wasn't actually going to London. He had a much better plan for the weekend. He was going to play his fantasy game right here in Washington.
HE SPED DUE EAST, rather than toward Washington's Dulles Airport, feeling as if a tremendously burdensome weight had been lifted. God, he hated his perfect English family, and even more, their claustrophobic life here in America.
Shafer's own family back in England had been "perfect" as well. He had two older brothers, and they'd both been excellent students, model youths. His father had been a military attaché, and the family had traveled around the globe until he was twelve, when they'd returned to England and settled in Guildford, about half an hour outside London. Once there, Shafer began to expand on the schoolboy mischief he'd practiced since he was eight. The center of Guildford contained several historic buildings, and he set out to gleefully deface all of them. He began with the Abbot's Hospital, where his grandmother was dying. He painted obscenities on the walls. Then he moved on to Guildford Castle, Guildhall, the Royal Grammar School, and Guildford Cathedral. He scrawled more obscene words, and splashed large penises in bright colors. He had no idea why he took such joy in ruining beautiful things, but he did. He loved it—and he especially loved not getting caught.
Shafer was eventually sent to school at Rugly, where the pranks continued. Then he attended St. John's College, where he concentrated on philosophy, Japanese, and shagging as many good-looking women as he possibly could. All his friends were mystified when he went into the army at twenty-one. His language skills were excellent, and he was posted to Asia, which was where the mischief rose to a new level and where he began to play the game of games.
He stopped at a 7-Eleven in Washington Heights for coffee—three coffees, actually. Black, with four sugars in each. He drank most of one of the cups on his way to the counter.
The Indian cashier gave him a cheeky, suspicious look, and he laughed in the bearded wanker's face.
"Do you really think I'd steal a bloody seventy-five-cent cup of coffee? You pathetic jerkoff. You pitiful wog."
He threw his money on the counter and left before he killed the clerk with his bare hands, which he could do easily enough.
From the 7-Eleven he drove into the Northeast part of Washington, a middle-class section called Eckington. He began to recognize the streets when he was west of Gallaudet University. Most of the structures were two-storied apartments with vinyl siding, either redbrick or a hideous Easter-egg blue that always made him wince.
He stopped in front of one of the redbrick garden apartments on Uhland Terrace, near Second Street. This one had an attached garage. A previous tenant had adorned the brick facade with two white concrete cats.
"Hello, pussies," Shafer said. He felt relieved to be here. He was "cycling up"—that is, getting high, manic. He loved this feeling, couldn't get enough of it. It was time to play the game.
A RUSTED and taped-up purple and blue taxi was parked inside the two-car garage. Shafer had been using it for about four months. The taxi gave him anonymity, made him almost invisible anywhere he chose to go in D.C. He called it his "Nightmare Machine."
He wedged the Jaguar beside the taxicab, then he jogged upstairs. Once inside the apartment, he switched on the air-conditioning. He drank another sugar-laced coffee.
Then he took his pills, like a good boy. Thorazine and Librium. Benadryl, Xanax, Vicodin. He'd been using the drugs in various combinations for years. It was mostly a trial-and-error process, but he'd learned his lessons well. Feeling better, Geoffrey? Yes, much better, thank you.
He tried to read today's Washington Post, then an old copy of Private Eye magazine, and finally a catalog from DeMask, a rubber and leather fetish wholesaler in Amsterdam, the world's largest. He did two hundred push-ups, then a few hundred sit-ups, impatiently waiting for darkness to fall over Washington.
At quarter to ten, Shafer began to get ready for a big night on the town. He went into the small, barren bathroom, which smelled of cheap cleanser. He stood before the mirror.
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