I T ’ S NOT EVERY DAY THAT I GET A NAKED GIRL ANSWERING THE DOOR I knock on.
Don’t get me wrong—with twenty years of law enforcement under my belt, it’s happened. Just not that often.
“Are you the waiters?” this girl asked. There was a bright but empty look in her eyes that said ecstasy to me, and I could smell weed from inside. The music was thumping, too, the kind of relentless techno that would make me want to slit my wrists if I had to listen to it for long.
“No, we’re not the waiters,” I told her, showing my badge. “Metro police. And you need to put something on, right now.”
She wasn’t even fazed. “There were supposed to be waiters,” she said to no one in particular. It made me sad and disgusted at the same time. This girl didn’t look like she was even out of high school yet, and the men we were here to arrest were old enough to be her father.
“Check her clothes before she puts them on,” I told one of the female officers on the entry team. Besides myself there were five uniformed cops, a rep from Youth and Family Services, three detectives from the Prostitution Unit, and three more from Second District, including my friend John Sampson.
Second District is Georgetown—not the usual stomping grounds for the Prostitution Unit. The white brick N Street town house where we’d arrived was typical for the neighborhood, probably worth somewhere north of five million. It was a rental property, paid six months in advance by proxy, but the paper trail had led back to Dr. Elijah Creem, one of DC’s most in-demand plastic surgeons. As far as we could make out, Creem was funneling funds to pay for these “industry parties,” and his partner in scum, Josh Bergman, was providing the eye candy.
Bergman was the owner of Cap City Dolls, a legit modeling agency based out of an M Street office, with a heavily rumored arm in the underground flesh trade. Detectives at the department were pretty sure that while Bergman was running his aboveboard agency with one hand, he was also dispatching exotic dancers, overnight escorts, masseuses, and porn “talent” with the other. As far as I could tell, the house was filled with “talent” right now, and they all seemed to be about eighteen, more or less. Emphasis on the less.
I couldn’t wait to bust these two scumbags.
Surveillance had put Creem and Bergman downtown at Minibar around seven o’clock that night, and then here at the party house as of nine thirty. Now it was just a game of smoking them out.
Beyond the enclosed foyer the party was in full swing. The front hall and formal living room were packed. It was all Queen Anne furniture and parquet floors on the one hand and half-dressed, tweaked-out kids stomping to the music and drinking out of plastic cups on the other.
“I want everyone contained in this front room,” Sampson shouted at one of the uniforms. “We’ve got an anytime warrant for this house, so start looking. We’re checking for drugs, cash, ledgers, appointment books, cell phones, everything. And get this goddamn music off!”
We left half the team to secure the front of the house and took the rest toward the back, where there was more party going on.
Reprinted from the book Alex Cross, Run by James Patterson. Copyright (C) 2013 by James Patterson. Reprinted with permission of Little, Brown and Company.
AT TEN O’CLOCK on a moonless September evening, Chris Schneider slipped toward a long-abandoned building on the eastern outskirts of Berlin, his mind whirling with dark images and old vows.
Late thirties, and dressed in dark clothes, Schneider drew out a .40 Glock pistol and eased forward, alert to the dry rustle of the thorn bushes and goldenrod and the vines that engulfed the place.
He hesitated, staring at the silhouette of the building, recalling some of the horror that he’d felt coming here for the first time, and realizing that he’d been waiting almost three decades for this moment.
Indeed, for ten years he’d trained his mind and body.
For ten years after that he’d actively sought revenge, but to no avail.
In the past decade, Schneider had come to believe it might never happen, that his past had not only disappeared, it had died, and with it the chance to exact true payback for himself and the others.
But here was his chance to be the avenging angel they’d all believed in.
Schneider heard voices in his mind, all shrieking at him to go forward and put a just ending to their story.
At their calling, Schneider felt himself harden inside. They deserved a just ending. He intended to give it to them.
By now he’d reached the steps of the building. The chain hung from the barn doors, which stood ajar. He stared at the darkness, feeling his gut hollow and his knees weaken.
You’ve waited a lifetime, Schneider told himself. Finish it. Now.
For all of us.
Schneider toed open the door. He stepped inside, smelling traces of stale urine, burnt copper, and something dead.
His mind flashed with the image of a door swinging shut and locking, and for a moment that alone threatened to cripple him completely.
But then Schneider felt righteous vengeance ignite inside him. He pressed the safety lever on the trigger, readying it to fire. He flicked on the flashlight taped to the gun, giving him a soft red beam with which to dissect the place.
Boot prints marred the dust.
Schneider’s heart pounded as he followed them. Cement rooms, more like stalls really, stood to either side of the passage. Even though the footprints went straight ahead, he searched the rooms one by one. In the last, he stopped and stared, seeing a horror film playing behind his eyes.
He tore his attention away, but noticed his gun hand was trembling.
The hallway met a second set of barn doors. The lock hung loose in the hasp. The doors were parted a foot, leading into a cavernous space.
He heard fluttering, stepped inside, and aimed his light and pistol into the rafters, seeing pigeons blinking in their roost.
The smell of death was worse here. Schneider swung his light all around, looking for the source. Large rusted bolts jutted from the floor. Girders and trusses overhead supported a track that ran the length of the space.
Corroded hooks hung on chains from the track.
The footprints cut diagonally left, away from the doorway. He followed, aware of those bolts in the floor and not wanting to trip.
Schneider meant to look into the girders again, but was distracted by something scampering ahead of him. He crouched, aiming the gun and light at the noise.
Reprinted from the book PRIVATE BERLIN by James Patterson and Mark Sullivan. Copyright © 2013 by James Patterson. Reprinted with permission of Little, Brown and Company, New York, N.Y. All rights reserved
“WHAT DO YOU know about Hannah Shapiro?”
“Nothing at all. Your assistant said you’d fill me in, just told me to meet you here.”
“Good. This is clearly on a need-to-know basis. Safer that way.”
Jack took the drink from the bar lady and laid his briefcase on the counter. Popping open the locks. “Apart from her first name, she has a completely new identity—surname, passport. Everything.”
“Witness- protection program?”
“Something like that.”
“Only not government- sanctioned?”
“In fact it is.”
“She’s how old?”
“Hannah is twenty.”
“And I’m taking her back to England?”
“For how long?”
“Three years, Dan.”
I looked at him quizzically and took a sip of beer. Then nodded. “Long enough to get a degree, I guess?”
Jack Morgan nodded, pleased. “You catch on fast.”
“Where’s she going to be studying?”
I nodded right back at him. One of the oldest, one of the best. I looked down at the documents. Money was clearly not a problem. Private didn’t come cheap— even if it was for just a hand- holding job on a flight over the Pond.
“This isn’t just a hand- holding exercise, Dan.”
I fought the urge to react. “It’s not?”
“She’s extremely valuable cargo. I need an eye on her the whole time she’s over there in England. Looked after discreetly.”
“Hard to be discreet if she goes round like Madonna with a crew of bodyguards the whole time.”
“Indeed. Less of a bodyguard, more of a companion. Let us know if she starts falling in with the wrong kind of crowd. Discreetly. Eyes and ears.”
“So discreet even Hannah herself doesn’t know about it?”
“When’s her course start?”
I took a sip of my lager. “I might need some strings pulling.”
“Way ahead of you.” Jack nodded at the briefcase. “I’ve spoken to the dean of admissions.”
“What’s she going to be reading?”
I nodded thoughtfully again. “That could work.”
“She’s had some issues in the past that I can’t talk about. Maybe this will help her deal with that.”
“And we make sure she has the space to do so.”
“Her father is a major client of ours, Dan. Seven figures major. So she’s important to us.”
“What does he do?”
Jack looked at me with a small quirk of a smile. “He pays the bills.”
“Like you said. Need-to-know basis .”
“You got it, bubba.” He clicked his glass against mine and drained it. “Okay. Let’s go meet the million- dollar baby.”
Reprinted from the book Private London by James Patterson.
Copyright © 2012 by James Patterson. Reprinted with permission of Grand Central Publishing, New York, N.Y.
All rights reserved.
THE REAR DOOR TO ST. ANTHONY’ S CHURCH HAD BEEN LEFT OPEN. EXACTLY AS I had been promised. John Sampson and I eased in through the dimly lit sacristy, the room where the priests dressed for services and where they stored the altar wine, the hymnals, and the vestments.
“Sugar, I hope we don’t have to shoot some dude in a church,” Sampson said in a stage whisper. “Your Nana’d be predicting me for a slot in the fire.”
“Especially if you pulled the trigger in church tonight.”
“Not funny, Alex.”
“Who’s laughing, John? If you shot someone in a church on Christmas Eve and I didn’t stop you, Nana Mama would be signing me up for a slot right next to you in the big burn.”
We made our way along a short, narrow hallway that led to the darkened apse and the altar itself. We stayed in the hall, looking out. Except for some flickering votives, some dim overheads, and a hanging candle near the altar table, there was no light in the church.
There couldn’t have been more than three or four people in the place. An old woman clicking her rosary beads, a homeless guy napping in the front pew, an older man reading a prayer book and muttering curses. I carefully checked out each of them.
Then a young girl in a fur coat, a coat way too fancy for St. Anthony’s, barged out of the confessional box on the near side of the church. She was sobbing into a long striped scarf. The priest came out after her. Father Harris placed his hand on her shoulder and led her to a pew, knelt by her.
The padre was a very nice guy, and a very good priest, the kind of man you did favors for if you could.
I looked around at the sparse wreaths that decorated the church. I’d been attending St. Anthony’s since I was ten years old and I couldn’t remember the place ever seeming so bare at Christmas. In fact, the church looked depressing.
I waited until I was sure all the worshippers had their heads down, and then I walked quickly along the front of the altar and knelt at the bottom of the stairs that led up to the carved oak pulpit. The Man Mountain stayed on the sacristy side and knelt among the bright red poinsettia plants, the lectern and the chairs used by the priest and altar boys between him and the pews.
A moment later, the girl nodded and left. Father Harris paused, glanced toward our positions, and then went out a side door.
Except for steam ticking in the registers, St. Anthony’s fell quiet. Kneeling there with my back to the crucifix high on the rear wall felt odd and somehow wrong. Then again, the entire thing felt strange. I don’t think I’d been at an altar in more than thirty-five years. Not since I had been at that very altar making my confirmation, when I was twelve.
That day, the bishop prayed over us as we were being confirmed, saying, “Fill them with Your spirit of fear, O Lord.” It’s a prayer that I have always found peculiar because as a rule, I see God as a source of courage and direction, not fear. But I’m not a priest, and so, as Sampson likes to say, what do I know?
We held our positions, in any case, and waited, knowing we had only an hour to pull this off. At six, the priests and friars from the priory next door would come to prepare the church for Midnight Mass. At six, this little stakeout would be over and I’d be going home for a well-deserved holiday with my family.
Excerpted from the book Merry Christmas, Alex Cross by James Patterson. Copyright © 2012 by James Patterson. Reprinted with permission of Little, Brown and Company, New York, N.Y. All rights reserved
INT. KITCHEN—REGENCY HOTEL, NEW YORK CITY—DAY
It’s the height of the breakfast rush at the Regency’s
Powerful dining room. THE CHAMELEON slips quietly
into the busy kitchen. His sandy hair is now dark,
his skin copper. He blends right in, just another nameless
Puerto Rican in a busboy uniform. He goes totally
THE CHAMELEON HAD stared at those words in his script hundreds of times. This morning they were coming to life. His movie was finally in production. “And action,” he whispered as he entered the Regency kitchen through a rear door.
He did not go unnoticed.
“You!” one of the black-tied, white-jacketed waiters yelled. “Get out there and top off the coffee cups at table twelve.”
Not exactly what he’d scripted, but so much better than he could have hoped for. Like most New York actors, The Chameleon knew his way around a restaurant kitchen. He filled one chrome carafe with regular coffee, another with decaf, and pushed through the swinging door into the dining room.
The cast of characters was even better than he had expected too. Today was the start of Hollywood on the Hudson week, the city’s all-out push to steal more film production business from LA. So in addition to the usual East Coast power brokers, the room was chock-full of Hollywood assholes chewing on multimillion-dollar deals and hundred-dollar breakfasts. And there, holding court at table twelve, was none other than Sid Roth.
If you could go to prison for destroying careers, families, and souls, Sid Roth would be serving a string of consecutive life sentences. But in the movie biz, being a heartless prick was a plus if it translated into the bottom line, and over the past three decades Roth had turned Mesa Films from a mom-and-pop shop into a mega-studio. The man was God, and the four other guys at the table were happily basking in His aura.
The Chameleon began pouring coffee when Roth, who was regaling his tablemates with a Hollywood war story, put a hand over his cup and said, “Get me another tomato juice, will you?”
“Yes, sir,” The Chameleon said. One tomato juice and a featured cameo coming up for Mr. Roth.
He was back in less than three minutes with Roth’s juice. “Muchas gracias, amigo,” Roth said, and he emptied the glass without giving his waiter a second look.
And vaya con Dios to you. The Chameleon went back to the kitchen and disappeared through the rear door. He had ten minutes for a costume change.
The men’s room in the lobby of the hotel was posh and private. Cloth hand towels, floor-to-ceiling walnut doors on each stall, and, of course, no surveillance cameras.
Half a dozen Neutrogena makeup-removing wipes later, he went from swarthy Latino to baby-faced white boy. He traded the waiter’s outfit for a pair of khakis and a pale blue polo.
He headed back to the lobby and positioned himself at a bank of house phones where he could watch the rest of the scene unfold. It was out of his hands now. He only hoped it would play out half as exciting as writ.
Reprinted from the book NYPD Red by James Patterson. Copyright © 2012 by James Patterson.
Reprinted with permission of Little, Brown and Company, New York, N.Y. All rights reserved.
LOS ANGELES ZOO
WEST HOLLYWOOD, CALIFORNIA
LOCATED IN GRIFFITH Park, a four-thousand-acre stretch of land featuring two eighteen-hole golf courses, the Autry National Center, and the HOLLYWOOD sign, the Los Angeles Zoo and Botanical Gardens is more of a run-down tourist attraction than a wildlife conservation facility.
Funded by fickle city budgets, the zoo resembles nothing more than a tired state fair. Garbage cans along its bleached concrete promenade spill over. It is not uncommon to catch the stench of heaped dung wafting from cages where ragged animals lie blank-eyed, fly-speckled, and motionless beneath the relentless California sun.
To the northeast of the entrance gate, the lion enclosure is ringed by a slime-coated concrete moat. Once—if you squinted, hard—it might have resembled a small scrap of the Serengeti. But these days, undermaintained, underfunded, and understaffed, it looks only like what it is: a concrete pen filled with packed dirt and bracketed by fake grass and plastic trees.
By 8:05 in the morning it is already hot in the seemingly empty enclosure. The only sound is a slight rustling as something dark and snakelike sways slowly back and forth through a tuft of the tall fake grass. The sound and motion stop. Then, fifty feet to the south, something big streaks out from behind a plywood boulder.
Head steady, pale yellow eyes gleaming, Mosa, the Los Angeles Zoo’s female lion, crosses the enclosure toward the movement in the grass with breathtaking speed. But instead of leaping into the grass, at the last fraction of a moment she flies into a tumble. Dust rises as she barrel-rolls around on her back and then up onto her paws.
Lying deep in the grass is Dominick, Mosa’s mate and the dominant male of the zoo’s two Transvaal lions, from southeast Africa. Older than Mosa, he shakes his regal reddish mane and gives her a cold stare. As has been the case more and more over the last few weeks, he is tense, watchful, in no mood for games. He blinks once, briefly, and goes back to flicking his tail through the high blades of grass.
Mosa glances at him, then toward the rear fence, at the big rubber exercise ball she was recently given by one of the keepers. Finally, ignoring the ball, she slowly leans forward to nuzzle Dominick’s mane, giving him an apologetic, deferential social lick as she passes.
Mosa cleans the dusty pads of her huge paws as the large cats lie together under the blaring-blue California sky. If there is an indication this morning of something being amiss, it is not in what the lions are doing, but in what they aren’t.
For lions as for other social mammals, vocalizations play a major role in communication. Lions make sounds to engage in sexual competition, to compete in territorial disputes, and to coordinate defense against predators.
Mosa and Dominick have become less and less vocal over the past two weeks. Now they are all but silent.
Both lions smell the keeper well before they hear him jingle the chain-link fence a hundred and fifty feet to their rear. As the human scent strikes their nostrils, the lions react in a way they never have before. They both stand. Their tails stiffen. Their ears cock forward as their fur bristles noticeably along their backs.
Reprinted from the book Zoo by James Patterson and Michael Ledwidge. Copyright © 2012 by James Patterson. Reprinted with permission of Little, Brown and Company, New York, N.Y. All rights reserved.
In WORLDVIEW THIS morning, whole villages in the Philippines have been demolished, and hundreds are missing as typhoons triggering massive mudslides continue to wreak havoc.”
I sat at the kitchen counter, staring at the small TV. The news anchor peered out at me with grave accusation. Yep, felt like a Monday.
“On the home front, officials rush to quell pockets of unrest as a subversive new movement takes hold in the cities.” The camera zoomed in on a glassy-eyed fanatic raving about an advanced society and how we must act now to preserve the purity of the planet. He carried a sign that read 99% IS THE FUTURE. I shivered involuntarily. The newscaster raised one perfectly groomed eyebrow and leaned forward. “Just who— or what—is ninety-nine percent?”
The newscaster’s face, frozen in practiced concern, dissolved into static as fuzzy black lines hiccupped across the screen. I frowned and smashed a fist down on top of the set, which only resulted in setting off a series of loud, plaintive beeps. Not that it was a quiet morning to start with.
Behind me in the kitchen, the usual chaos was unraveling. Iggy was slinging waffles at Gazzy and Total, who were trying to catch them in their wide-open mouths, like baby birds. How perfect.
“I can’t find the socks that match this skirt!” Nudge said, holding up some floaty, layery clothing situation. A waffle whapped her in the head, and with turbo-charged reflexes, she snatched it out of midair and hurled it back at Iggy as hard as she could. It exploded against his forehead. “Don’t throw waffles at me!” she screeched. “I’m trying to get dressed!” Gazzy shot a fist into the air, his face twisted into that maniacally guilty grin that only nine-year-old angelic' looking boys seem to be able to master. “Food fi—” he began happily, only to stop at the look in my eyes.
“Try it,” I said with deadly calm. He sat down. “Quit throwing waffles!” I yelled, snatching the syrup bottle away from Iggy, who was aiming it at his open mouth. “Use plates! Use forks!”
“But I don’t have thumbs!” Total said indignantly. “Just because I can talk doesn’t mean I’m human,” he complained. For a small, Scotty-like dog, he had a lot of presence.
“Neither are we. At least not completely.” I unfolded my wings partway. Yes, folks—wings. In case this is your first dip into the deep end of the ol’ freak-of-nature pool, I’ll just put it out there: We fly.
Total rolled his eyes. “Yes, Max, I am aware.” He fluttered his own miniature pair of flappers. Unfortunately, his mate for life, Akila, didn’t have wings, so the non-mutant Samoyed spent most of the year with her one-hundred- percent-human owner. She had a hard time keeping up with us. I shrugged. “So use a dog bowl, then.” His nose twitched in distaste.
“I can’t find—” Nudge started again, but I held up my hand. She knew I couldn’t answer complicated fashion questions. She whirled and stalked off to the bathroom to begin her twelve-step daily beauty regimen—involving many potions, lotions, and certain buffing techniques. The whole thing made my head hurt, and since Nudge was a naturally gorgeous twelve-year-old, I had no idea why she bothered.
Excerpt of NEVERMORE: A MAXIMUM RIDE NOVEL by James Patterson granted with permission by Little, Brown Books for Young Readers, New York, NY. Copyright (C) 2012 James Patterson
ORANGE LAKE, NEW YORK
SIXTY MILES NORTH OF NEW YORK CITY
STARTING TO GASP AS she climbed the increasingly steep slope of the tangled hiking trail, Mary Catherine was about to take a breather when the tree line opened. Glancing out over the open ridge, she immediately halted in her tracks, as what was left of her breath was suddenly taken.
Off to the right, the flat lake and majestic foothills of the Catskill Mountains glowed in the soft morning light like a priceless Hudson River School landscape come to life. Mary Catherine stood for a moment, mesmerized by the exhilarating vista, the distant golden hills, the mile-long expanse of silvery blue water, smooth and perfect as a freshly tucked-in sheet.
Only for a moment.
Two geese floating by the near shore of the lake took frantic, honking flight as a large projectile landed in the water beside them with a tremendous, booming slap.
“Youkilis tries to tag from third!” Eddie Bennett yelled as the baseball-size rock he’d just chucked sent violent ripples over the serene water. He dropped to his knees as he threw his arms up in dramatic triumph. “But the Yankees’ new center fielder, Eddie the Laser Beam Bennett, throws him out by a mile. Ball game over. Pennant over. Thuuuuh Yankees win!”
“Mary Catherine!” protested one of the girls from the front of the long, single-file line of children already on the move through the trees farther down the trail.
There were ten of them in all, six girls, four boys. Being a mix of Spanish and Asian, black and white, and ranging in age from seven to sixteen, they were often mistaken for a small Montessori school.
But they weren’t, Mary Catherine knew. They were a family, believe it or not. A large, raucous, often aggravating, but ultimately always loving family. One she found herself smack-dab in the middle of again and again for some reason.
Who was she kidding? she thought as she hauled Eddie up and sent him scurrying ahead of her along the forest path. She knew the reason, or at least the main one. His name was Mike Bennett, the NYPD detective father of these ten crazy kids, stuck back in the city on a case. Which meant she was on riot patrol without backup here at the Bennett family lake house. At least until the weekend.
This latest frenzied fiasco of an outdoor adventure was actually courtesy of the two littlest ones, Shawna and Chrissy: a first-ever Bennett family vacation breakfast picnic. But it was Jane, the Girl Scout, who had turned it into a full-blown nature walk with her Orange County field guide. An activity Ricky, Eddie, and Trent were determined to tease into oblivion at every turn, of course.
Less than a minute later, Mary Catherine watched helplessly as, midway down the hiking line, Ricky Bennett suddenly hopped up on a rock and began making drumbeat sounds with his mouth. It was a rap beat, Mary Catherine knew. The very same one the thirteen-year-old had driven them all crazy with on last night’s two-hour ride up here.
“Uh-oh. Here we go. More dissension in the ranks,” Mary Catherine mumbled as she hurried forward through the column of kids.
Reprinted from the book I, Michael Bennett by James Patterson. Copyright © 2012 by James Patterson. Reprinted with permission of Little, Brown and Company, New York, N.Y. All rights reserved
A GOOD-LOOKING MAN in his forties sat in the back row of the auditorium at the exclusive Morton Academy of Music. He was wearing a blue suit, white shirt, and a snappy striped tie. His features were good, although not remarkable, but behind the blue tint of his glasses, he had very kind brown eyes.
He had come to the recital alone and had a passing thought about his wife and children at home, but then he refocused his attention on someone else’s child.
Her name was Noelle Smith. She was eleven, a cute little girl and a very talented young violinist who had just performed a Bach gavotte with distinction.
Noelle knew she’d done well. She took a deep bow with a flourish, grinning as two hundred parents in the audience clapped and whistled.
As the applause died down, a gray-haired man in the third row popped up from his seat, buttoned his jacket, stepped out into the aisle, and headed toward the lobby.
That man was Chaz Smith, Noelle’s father.
The man in the blue suit waited several seconds, then followed Smith, staying back a few paces, walking along the cream-tiled corridor, then taking a right past the pint-size water fountain and into the short spur of a hallway that ended at the men’s room.
After entering the men’s room, he looked beneath the stalls and saw Chaz Smith’s Italian loafers under the door at the far right. Otherwise, the room was empty. In a minute or two, the room would fill.
The man in the blue suit moved quickly, picking up the large metal trash can next to the sink and placing it so that it blocked the exit.
Then he called out, “Mr. Smith? I’m sorry to disturb you, but it’s about your car.”
“What? Who is that?”
“Your car, Mr. Smith. You left your lights on.”
The man in the blue suit removed his semiauto .22-caliber Ruger from his jacket pocket, screwed on the suppressor. Then he took out a tan-colored plastic bag, the kind you get at the supermarket, and pulled the bag over his gun.
Smith swore. Then the toilet flushed and Smith opened the door. His gray hair was mussed, white powder rimmed his nostrils, and his face showed fierce indignation.
“You’re sure it’s my car?” he said. “My wife will kill me if I’m not back in my seat for the finale.”
“I’m really sorry to do this to your wife and child. Noelle played beautifully.”
Smith looked puzzled—then he knew. He dropped the vial of coke, and his hand dove under his jacket. Too late.
The man in the blue suit lifted his bag-covered gun, pulled the trigger, and shot Chaz Smith twice between the eyes.
Reprinted from the book 11th Hour by James Patterson and Maxine Paetro.
Copyright © 2012 by James Patterson.
Reprinted with permission of Little, Brown and Company, New York, N.Y.
All rights reserved.
THEY TELL ME I will die here. This place I do not know, this dark, dank, rancid dungeon, where nobody wishes me well and most speak languages I don’t understand—this is the place I will call home for the rest of my life. That’s what they tell me. It’s getting harder to disbelieve them.
There are people in here who want me dead, some for retribution but most to establish their own notoriety. It would be a sure path to celebrity to kill me or one of my friends, known collectively as the Monte Carlo Mistresses. That was the moniker that stuck in the international media. More imaginative than the earlier ones—the Gang of Four, the Bern Beauties, the Desperate Housewives. Less chilling, to me at least, than the one that ran on the front page of Le Monde the day after the verdict: Mamans Coupables. Guilty Moms.
So I wait. For a miracle. For newly discovered evidence. A confession from the real killer. A sympathetic ear to my appeal. Or simply for the morning when I wake up and discover this was all a dream. The last three hundred and ninety-eight mornings, I’ve opened my eyes and prayed that I was back in Bern, or, better yet, back in Georgetown, preparing to teach American literature to hungover underclassmen.
And I watch. I turn every corner widely and slowly. I sleep sitting up. I try to avoid any routine that would make my movements predictable, that would make me vulnerable. If they’re going to get to me in here, they’re going to have to earn it.
It started out as a day like any other. I walked down the narrow corridor of G wing. When I approached the block letters on the door’s glass window—INFIRMERIE—I stopped and made sure my toes lined up with the peeling red tape on the floor that served as a marker, a stop sign before entering.
“Bonjour,” I said to the guard at the station on the other side of the hydraulic door, a woman named Cecile. No last names. None of the prison staff was allowed to reveal anything more to the prisoners than their first names, and those were probably fake, too. The point was anonymity outside these walls: because of it, the inmates, once released, wouldn’t be able to hunt down the prison guards who hadn’t treated them so nicely.
“Hi, Abbie.” Always responding to me in her best English, which wasn’t bad. Better than my French. After a loud, echoing buzz, the door released with a hiss.
The prison infirmary was the length and width of an American gymnasium, but it had a lower ceiling, about eight feet high. It was mostly one open space filled with about two dozen beds. On one side was a long cage—the “reception” area—where inmates waited their turn to be treated. On another side, also closed off and secured, was a room containing medical supplies and pharmaceuticals.
Reprinted from the book GUILTY WIVES by James Patterson and David Ellis. Copyright © 2012 by James Patterson. Reprinted with permission of Little, Brown and Company, New York, N.Y. All rights reserved.
The car was waiting for me at LAX. Aldo was out at the curb, holding a sign reading, “Welcome Home Mr. Morgan.”
I shook Aldo’s hand, threw my bags into the trunk, and slid onto the cushy leather seat in the back. I’d done six cities in three days, the return leg from Stockholm turning into a twenty-five-hour journey through airline hell to home.
I was wiped out. And that was an understatement.
“Your packet, Jack,” Aldo said, handing a folder over the divider. The cover was marked “Private,” the name of my private investigation firm. Our main office was in LA, and we had branches in six countries with clients all over the map who demanded and paid well for services not available through public means.
I had worried lately that we were growing too big too fast, that if big was the enemy of good, great didn’t stand a chance. And most of all, I wanted Private to be great.
I tucked the folder from Accounting into my briefcase and as the car surfed into the fast lane, I took out my BlackBerry. Unread messages ran into triple digits, so I chose selectively as I thumbed through the list.
The first e-mail was from Viviana, the stunner who’d sat next to me from London to New York. She sold 3-D teleconferencing equipment, not exactly must-have technology, but it was definitely interesting.
There was a text from Paolo, my security chief in Rome, saying, “Our deadbeat client is now just dead. Details to follow.” I mentally kissed a two-hundred-thousand-euro fee good-bye and moved to texts from the home team.
Justine Smith, my confidante and number two at Private, wrote, “We’ve got some catching up to do, bud. I’ve left the porch light on.” I smiled, thinking that as much as I wanted to see her, I wanted to shower and hit the rack even more.
I sent Justine a reply, then opened a text from Rick Del Rio. “Noccia wants to see you pronto, that prick.”
The text was like a gut punch.
Carmine Noccia was the scion of the major Mob family by that name, capo of the
Las Vegas branch, and my accidental buddy because of a deal I’d had to make with him six months before. If I never saw Carmine Noccia again, it would be way too soon.
I typed a four-letter reply, sent it to Del Rio, and put my phone back into my pocket as the car turned into my driveway. I collected my bags and watched Aldo back out, making sure he didn’t get T-boned on Pacific Coast Highway.
I swiped my electronic key fob across the reader and went through the gate, pressed my finger to the biometric pad, and entered my home sweet home.
For a half second, I thought I smelled roses, but I chalked it up to the delight of standing again in my own house.
I started stripping in the living room and by the time I’d reached the bathroom, I was down to my boxers, which I kicked off outside the shower stall.
Excerpted from the book PRIVATE: #1 SUSPECT by James Patterson and Maxine Paetro. Copyright © 2012 by James Patterson. Reprinted with permission of Little, Brown and Company, New York, NY. All rights reserved.
My lungs are bursting, and if she dies, I’ll die.
We’re tearing through the cramped, dank streets of the capital, running for our lives from the New order police and their trained wolves. My calves are burning, my shoulders ache, and my mind is numb from all that’s happened.
There is no more freedom. So there is no escape.
I stumble through this strange, awful world we have inherited, past a mass of the sick who are shuddering from more than just the cold. A man collapses at my feet, and I have to wrestle my arm away from a woman holding a baby and pointing at me, shrieking, “The one has judged! He has judged you!”
And then there’s the blood. Mothers scratch at open pustules, and children cough into rags stained red. Half the poor in this city are dying from the Blood Plague.
And my sister is one of them.
Wisty’s even paler than usual, and her slight frame is curled over my back, her thin arms wrapped around my neck. She’s in agony; her breath comes in gasps. She’s murmuring about Mom and Dad, and it’s ripping my heart right out of my chest.
The street pulses with waves of vacant-eyed citizens scurrying to work. A guy in a suit shoulders me to the curb, and an old man who seems to recognize me slurs something about “dark arts” under his breath and hurls a glob of spit at my cheek. Everyone has been brainwashed or brutalized into conformity. I can hear the shrieks from the abused populace as the goons hammer through them just a block behind.
They’re gaining on us.
I can picture the wolves straining against their chains, foam building on their jagged teeth as they yank our pursuers forward. All missing fur and rotting flesh, they’re Satan’s guard dogs come to life. Something tells me that if —or when —the New Order police catch us, those animals aren’t exactly going to go easy.
There’s got to be an open door or a shop to slip into, but all I can see are the imposing, blaringly red banners of propaganda plastering every building. We are literally surrounded by the New Order.
Now they’re right on us. The cop in the lead is a little zealot who looks like a ferret. His face is beet red under an official hat with the N.O. insignia on it. He’s screaming my
name and wielding a metal baton that looks like it would feel really awesome smashing across my shins.
Or through my skull.
No. I will not go out like this. We have the power. I think of Mom and Dad, of their faces as the smoke streaked toward them. We will avenge them. I feel a rush of rebel inspiration as lines of a banned poem thunder in my head along with the soldiers’ boots.
“Rise like Lions after slumber / In unvanquishable number.” I put my head down, hike up Wisty, and surge forward through the plague-ridden crowds. I won’t give up.
Excerpt granted with permission by Little, Brown Books for Young Readers New York, NY of WITCH & WIZARD: THE FIRE by James Patterson. Copyright © 2011 by James Patterson. All Rights Reserved.
It began with President Coyle’s children, Ethan and Zoe, both high-profile personalities since they had arrived in Washington, and probably even before that.
Twelve-year-old Ethan Coyle thought he had gotten used to living under the microscope and in the public eye. So Ethan hardly noticed anymore the news cameramen perpetually camped outside the Branaff School gates, and he didn’t worry the way he used to if some kid he didn’t know tried to snap his picture in the hall, or the gymnasium, or even the boys’ bathroom.
Sometimes, Ethan even pretended he was invisible. It was kind of babyish, kind of b.s., but who cared. It helped. One of the more personable Secret Service guys had actually suggested it. He told Ethan that Chelsea Clinton used to do the same thing. Who knew if that was true?
But when Ethan saw Ryan Townsend headed his way that morning, he only wished he could disappear. Ryan Townsend always had it in for him, and that wasn’t just Ethan’s paranoia talking. He had the purplish and yellowing bruises to prove it — the kind that a good hard punch or muscle squeeze can leave behind.
“Wuzzup, Coyle the Boil? ” Townsend said, charging up on him in the hall with that look on his face. “The Boil havin’ a bad day already?”
Ethan knew better than to answer his tormenter and torturer. He cut a hard left toward the lockers instead — but that was his first mistake. Now there was nowhere to go, and he felt a sharp, nauseating jab to the side of his leg. He’d been kicked! Townsend barely even slowed down as he passed. He called these little incidents “drive-bys.”
The thing Ethan didn’t do was yell out, or stumble in pain. That was the deal he’d made with himself: don’t let anyone see what you’re feeling inside.
Instead, he dropped his books and knelt down to pick them back up again. It was a total wuss move, but at least he could take the weight off his leg for a second without letting the whole world know he was Ryan Townsend’s punching and kicking dummy.
Except this time, someone else did see — and it wasn’t the Secret Service.
Ethan was stuffing graph paper back into his math folder when he heard a familiar voice.
“Hey, Ryan? Wuzzup with you? ”
He looked up just in time to see his fourteen-year-old sister, Zoe, stepping right into Townsend’s path.
“I saw that,” she said. “You thought I wouldn’t?”
Townsend cocked his head of blond curls to the side. “I don’t know what the hell you’re talking about. Why don’t you just mind your own —”
Out of nowhere, a heavy yellow textbook came up fast in both of Zoe’s hands.
She swung hard, and clocked Townsend with it, right across the middle of his face. The bully’s nose spurted red and he stumbled backward. It was great!
Excerpted from the book KILL ALEX CROSS by James Patterson. Copyright ©2011 by James Patterson. Reprinted with permission of Little, Brown and Company, New York, NY. All rights reserved.
HELLO! Buenos dias! Bonjour! Konnichiwa! It’s me, Daniel, here with the critical life lesson of the day: There’s absolutely, positively, no such thing as too much practice or preparation. Not when it comes to sports, not when it comes to acing your math test, and definitely not when it comes to issues of mortal combat.
Having just died a horrible bloody death in a dusty urban parking lot, I’d clearly forgotten this lesson.
I mean, if you don’t even take the time to learn the commands before you start playing a high-end video game like Crown of Thorns IV —the celebrated first-person battlefield shooter with 140 million copies sold and more than twenty million totally obsessed kids playing online at any given moment —you should at least bring along some butter and jam. Because if you’re going to be toast, you might as well make the most of it.
Of course, I could have cheated. After all, I am the Alien Hunter, legendary destroyer of the most evil extraterrestrials on Terra Firma (that’s Earth for those of you who are new to this stuff). I’m gifted with the ability to create and manipulate anything I can understand, which definitely would include something as basic as cheat codes. I could have given my character Iron Man–style weapons and armor, or I simply could have put my character in a less dangerous place on the battle map. But, like with any game, if you break the rules, it kind of detracts from the experience.
Plus, I was trying not to call attention to myself. I was hanging out at the Game Consortium, Inc., flagship store in the high-rise Shinjuku ward of Tokyo, acting like a normal, human teenage boy, doing things that normal, human teenage boys do when they want to play a video game. That includes drooling, grunting, hooting, and standing in line for more than an hour just to have a shot at the latest GC product offerings, as if I were waiting to get onto the Indiana Jones ride at Disneyland. Which is kind of what this place was like.
It was the most high-tech space I’d ever seen, outfitted wall-to-wall with the most cutting-edge gaming software ever devised. Like something you’d expect to see in a secret underground bunker or in NASA’s flight command center. The images on the floor-to-ceiling screens and at the holograph stations were crisper and more vivid than reality itself.
The kids waiting in line for a console were all agog in a freaky trance —sweaty, shaking, pale, wide-eyed —like hard-core drug addicts desperate for a fix. I couldn’t blame them. The GC’s game offerings were truly revolutionary. They always seemed to have better graphics, greater depth of play, and way more addictive hunt and battle scenarios than their competitors in the gaming market did.
Excerpted from the book DANIEL X: GAME OVER by James Patterson . Copyright © 2011 by James Patterson. Reprinted with permission of Little, Brown Books for Young Readers, New York, NY. All rights reserved.
SOME PEOPLE ARE harder to kill than others. The Ghost was thinking about this as he huddled in the deep, dark shadows ofGrand Central Terminal. A man named Walter elvas would have to die tonight. But it wouldn’t be easy. Nobody hired the Ghost for the easy obs.
It was almost 11 p.m, and even though the evening rush was long over, there was still a steady stream of weary travelers.
The Ghost was wearing an efficient killing disguise. His face was lost under a tangle of matted silver-and-white hair and shaggy beard, and his arsenal was hidden under a wine-stained gray poncho. To anyone who even bothered to take notice, he was just another heap of homeless humanity seeking refuge on a quiet bench near Track 109.
He eyed his target. Walter Zelvas. A great hulk of a man with the nerves and reflexes of a snake and a soul to match. Zelvas was a contract killer himself, but unlike the Ghost, Zelvas took pleasure in watching his victims suffer before they died. For years, the ruthless Russian had been an enforcer for the Diamond Syndicate, but apparently he had outlived his usefulness to his employer, and the Ghost had been hired to terminate him.
If he doesn’t kill me first, the Ghost thought. With Zelvas it was definitely a matter of kill or be killed. And this would surely be a duel to the death between them.
So the Ghost watched his opponent closely. The screen on the departures monitor refreshed and Zelvas cursed under his breath. His train was delayed another thirty minutes.
He drained his second cup of Starbucks cappuccino, stood up, and crumpling his empty cup, deposited it in the trash.
No littering, the Ghost thought. That might attract attention, and the last thing Zelvas wanted was attention.
That’s why he was leaving town by train. Train stations aren’t like airports. There’s no baggage check, no metal detector, no security.
Zelvas looked toward the men’s room.
All that coffee will be the death of you, the Ghost thought as Zelvas walked across the marble floor to the bathroom.
A half-comatose porter, mop in hand, was sloshing water on the terminal floor like a zombie tarring a roof. He didn’t see Zelvas coming.
A puddle of brown water came within inches of the big man’s right foot. Zelvas stopped. “You slop any of that scum on my shoes and you’ll be shitting teeth,” he said.
The porter froze. “Sorry. Sorry, sir. Sorry.”
The Ghost watched it all. Another time, another place, and Zelvas might have drowned the man in his own mop water. But tonight he was on his best behavior.
Zelvas continued toward the bathroom.
The Ghost had watched the traffic in and out of the men’s room for the past half hour. It was currently empty. Moment of truth, the Ghost told himself.
Zelvas got to the doorway, stopped, and turned around sharply.
Excerpted from the book Kill Me If You Can by James Patterson. Copyright © 2011 by James Patterson. Reprinted with permission of Little, Brown and Company, New York, NY. All rights reserved.
CHAPTER 1: I’m Rafe Khatchadorian, Tragic Hero
It feels as honest as the day is crummy that I begin this tale of total desperation and woe with me, my pukey sister, Georgia, and Leonardo the Silent sitting like rotting sardines in the back of a Hills Village Police Department cruiser.
Now, there’s a pathetic family portrait you don’t want to be a part of, believe me. More on the unfortunate Village Police incident later. I need to work myself up to tell you that disaster story.
So anyway, ta-da, here it is, book fans, and all of you in need of AR points at school. The true autobio of my life so far. The dreaded middle school years. If you’ve ever been a middle schooler, you understand already. If you’re not in middle school yet, you’ll understand soon enough.
But let’s face it: Understanding me—I mean, really understanding me and my nutty life—isn’t so easy. That’s why it’s so hard for me to find people I can trust. The truth is, I don’t know who I can trust. So mostly I don’t trust anybody. Except my mom, Jules. (Most of the time, anyway.)
So…let’s see if I can trust you. First, some background.
That’s me, by the way, arriving at “prison”—also known as Hills Village Middle School—in Jules’s SUV. The picture credit goes to Leonardo the Silent.
Getting back to the story, though, I do trust one other person. That would actually be Leonardo. Leo is capital C Crazy, and capital O Off-the-Wall, but he keeps things real.
Here are some other people I don’t trust as far as I can throw a truckload of pianos.
There’s Ms. Ruthless Donatello, but you can just call her the Dragon Lady. She teaches English and also handles my favorite subject in sixth grade—after-school detention.
Also, Mrs. Ida Stricker, the vice principal. Ida’s pretty much in charge of every breath anybody takes at HVMS.
That’s Georgia, my super-nosy, super-obnoxious, super-brat sister, whose only good quality is that she looks like Jules might have looked when she was in fourth grade.
There are more on my list, and we’ll get to them eventually. Or maybe not. I’m not exactly sure how this is going to work out. As you can probably tell, this is my first full-length book.
But let’s stay on the subject of us for a little bit. I kind of want to, but how do I know I can trust you with all my personal embarrassing personal stuff—like the police car disaster story? What are you like? Inside, what are you like?
Are you basically a pretty good, pretty decent person? Says who? Says you? Says your ‘rents? Says your sibs?
Okay, in the spirit of a possible friendship between us—and this is a huge big deal for me—here’s another true confession.
This is what I actually looked like when I got to school that first morning of sixth grade.
We still friends, or are you out of here?
Hey—don’t go—all right?
I kind of like you. Seriously. You know how to listen, at least. And believe me, I’ve got quite the story to tell you.
Copyright © 2011 by James Patterson
MARCH 12, 1992
Party till you drop, man!
Every time i think back to everything that happened, it’s that expression, that silly early-eighties cliché, that first comes to mind.
It was actually the first thing we heard when we arrived in Key west to start the last spring break of our college careers. As we were checking into our hotel, a very hairy and even drunker middle-aged man wearing goggles and an orange Speedo screamed, “Party till you drop, man!” as he ran, soaking wet, through the lobby.
From that hilariously random moment on, for the rest of our vacation it was our mantra, our boast, our dare to one another. my boyfriend at one point seriously suggested we should all get “Party till you drop, man!” tattoos.
Because we thought it was a joke.
It turned out to be a prophecy.
It actually happened.
First we partied.
Then someone dropped.
It happened on the last day. Our last afternoon found us just as the previous afternoons had, giddily hungover, lazily finishing up burgers under one of our hotel beach bar’s umbrellas.
Under the table, my boyfriend Alex’s bare foot was hooked around mine as his finger played with the string of my yellow bikini top. the Cars’ classic song “touch and Go” was playing softly from the outdoor speakers as we watched an aging biker with a black leather vest and braided gray hair play catch with his dog off the bar’s sun-bleached dock. We laughed every time the collie in the red bandanna head-butted the wet tennis ball before belly flopping into the shallow blue waves.
As the huffing, drenched collie paddled back to shore, a stiff breeze off the water began jingling the bar’s hanging glasses like wind chimes. Listening to the unexpected musical sound, i sighed as a long, steady hit of vacation nirvana swept through me. For a tingling moment, everything —the coolness under the Jägermeister umbrella, the almost pulsating white sand of the beach, the blue-green water of the Gulf —became sharper, brighter, more vivid.
When Alex slipped his hand into mine, all the wonderful memories of how we fell in love freshman year played through my mind. The first nervous eye contact across the cavernous Geology classroom. the first time he haltingly asked me out. The first time we kissed.
As I squeezed his hand back, I thought how lucky we were to have found each other, how good we were together, how bright our future looked.
Then it happened.
The beginning of the end of my life.
Our wiry Australian waitress, Maggie, who was clearing the table, smiled as she raised an eyebrow. Then she casually asked what would turn out to be the most important yes-or-no question of my life.
“You motley mob need anything else?” she said in her terrific Aussie accent.
Excerpted from the book Now You See Her by James Patterson. Copyright © 2011 by James Patterson. Reprinted with permission of Little, Brown and Company, New York, NY. All rights reserved.
This was the day I was getting married.
Our suite at the Ritz in Half Moon Bay was in chaos. My best friends and I had stripped down to our underwear, and our street clothes had been flung over the furniture. Sorbet-colored dresses hung from the moldings and door frames.
The scene looked like a degas painting of ballerinas before the curtain went up, or maybe a romanticized bordello in the wild west. Jokes were cracked. Giddiness reigned —and then the door opened and my sister Catherine stepped in, wearing her brave face: a tight smile, pain visible at the corners of her eyes.
“What’s wrong, Cat?” i asked.
“He’s not here.”
I blinked, tried to ignore the sharp pang of disappointment. I said sarcastically, “Well, there’s a shock.”
Cat was talking about our father, Marty Boxer, who left home when we were kids and failed to show when my mom was dying. I’d seen him only twice in the past ten years and hadn’t missed him, but after he’d told Cat he’d come to my wedding, I’d had an expectation.
“He said he would be here. He promised,” Cat said.
I’m six years older than my sister and a century more jaded. I should have known better. I hugged her.
“Forget it,” I said. “He can’t hurt us. He’s nobody to us.”
Claire, my best bosom buddy, sat up in bed, swung her legs over, and put her bare feet on the floor. She’s a large black woman and funny —acidly so. If she weren’t a pathologist, she could do stand-up comedy.
“I’ll give you away, Lindsay,” she said. “But I want you back.”
Cindy and I cracked up, and Yuki piped up, “I know who can stand in for Marty, that jerk.” She stepped into her pink satin dress, pulled it up over her tiny little bones, and zipped it herself. She said, “Be right back.”
Getting things done was Yuki’s specialty. Don’t get in her way when she’s in gear. Even if she’s in the wrong gear.
“Yuki, wait,” I called as she rushed out the door. I turned to Claire, saw that she was holding up what used to be called a foundation garment. it was boned and forbidding-looking.
“I don’t mind wearing a dress that makes me look like a cupcake, but how in hell am Isupposed to get into this?”
“I love my dress,” said Cindy, fingering the peach-colored silk organza. She was probably the first bridesmaid in the world to express that sentiment, but Cindy was terminally lovesick. She turned her pretty face toward me and said dreamily, “You should get ready.”
Two yards of creamy satin slid out of the garment bag. I wriggled into the strapless Vera Wang confection, then stood with my sister in front of the long freestanding mirror: a pair of tall brown-eyed blondes, looking so much like our dad.
“Grace Kelly never looked so good,” said Cat, her eyes welling up.
Excerpted from the book 10th Anniversary by James Patterson. Copyright © 2011 by James Patterson. Reprinted with permission of Little, Brown and Company, New York, NY. All rights reserved.
FORTY-EIGHT HOURS EARLIER—a mere two days before I watched the 7-4 Day film at my parents' house.
When I arrived at President Hughes Jacklin's inauguration party that night in the year 2061, I was flying high, happier and more self-satisfied than I had ever been. I couldn't have dreamed I would end up losing everything I cared about—my home, my job, my two darling daughters, Chloe and April, and my beautiful wife, Lizbeth, who was there by my side.
In the catastrophic whirlwind of those next horrible days, it would seem as if my world had been turned upside down and any part of my personality that wasn't securely bolted in place had fallen into the void. And what was left was what I guess you'd call the essential Hays Baker—well, if you brought the old me and the new me to a party, I guarantee nobody would accuse us of a family resemblance.
Lizbeth and I arrived at the presidential estate at around eight thirty, delivered in high style by our artificially intelligent Daimler SX-5500 limo. This wasn't our usual car, of course.
A cheery, top-of-the-line iJeeves butler helped us out onto the resplendent, putting-green-short grass of the front lawn. We promptly began to gawk at our surroundings—like a couple of tourists, I suppose. Hell, like lowly humans given an unlikely glimpse of the good life.
Even now, I remember that the warm night air was sweet with the fragrance of thousands of roses, gardenias, and other genetically enhanced flowering plants in the president's gardens, all programmed to bloom tonight. What a botanical miracle it was, though a bit show-offy, I'd say.
"This is absolutely incredible, Hays. Dazzling, inspiring," Lizbeth gushed, her gorgeous eyes shining with excitement."We really do run the world, don't we?"
By "we," Lizbeth wasn't talking about just herself and me. She was speaking of our broader identity as ruling Elites, the upper echelon of civilized society for the past two decades.
Most Elites were attractive, of course, but Lizbeth, with her violet hair set off by ivory skin and an almost decadent silver silk gown, well, she sparkled like a diamond dropped into a pile of wood chips.
"You're going to knock them dead, Jinxie," I said, winking. "As always."
"Flattery," she said, winking back, "will get you everywhere."
Jinxie was my favorite nickname for her. It stemmed from the fact that she'd come into this world on a Friday the thirteenth, but there wasn't a single thing unlucky about her—or our life together, for that matter.
I took her tastefully bejeweled hand in mine, inwardly thrilled that she was my wife. God, how I loved this woman. How lucky I was to be with her, as husband, as father to our two daughters.
Every head turned as we walked into the huge, high-ceilinged ballroom, and you'd have thought we were music or film stars from the bygone human era.
Excerpted from the book TOYS by James Patterson. Copyright © 2011 by James Patterson. Reprinted with permission of Little, Brown and Company, New York, NY. All rights reserved.
I KNOW HE’LL come for me. He has to come for me. Fang wouldn’t let me die here.
I’d been in the cage for days. I couldn’t remember eating. I couldn’t remember sleeping. I was disoriented from all the tests and the needles and the acrid disinfectant smell that had permeated my entire childhood . . . growing up in a lab, as an experiment. And here I was again, disoriented but still capable of a blinding rage.
Fang hadn’t come for me. I would have to save myself this time.
“You! Get back!” The lab assistant’s wooden billy club smashed against the door of the Great Dane–sized dog crate I was being held in every time I peered out through the front. With each strike, the door’s hinges sustained more damage. Right according to plan.
Steeling my nerves, I again carefully pushed my fingers out through the bars of the crate and pressed my face against it. Timing was key: if I didn’t pull back fast enough, the gorilla-like lab tech could easily crush my fingers or break my nose.
“I said, get back!” he repeated. Smash! A split-second after the club hit the weakened hinges, I kicked the door with every ounce of strength I had left.
“Hey!” The lab tech’s startled yell was cut short as I shot out of the crate, a rush of seriously ticked-off mutant freak, and launched a roundhouse kick to his head. I spun again, leaping onto a table to assess my adversary.
Already a piercing klaxon was splitting the air. Shouts and pounding footsteps from the hallway added to the chaos.
I grabbed on to a pipe on a low section of the ceiling, swung forward, and slammed my feet into a white- lab-coated chest. The bully sank to his knees, unable to draw breath. This was the perfect time for me to run to the end of the table, jump off, and spread my wings.
That’s where the “mutant freak” part comes in.
As hands reached for my bare feet, I shot upward, flying toward a small window high in the wall, then veered off path when a familiar dark shadow suddenly loomed.
He was on the roof outside, watching through the window. My right-wing man! I knew he’d come. He had my back, like a thousand times before. He would always have my back, and I would always have his. With relief, I readied myself to crash through the glass.
The room below me was now filled with shouting people. So long, suckers, I thought, as I aimed and got a flying start. I’d burst through quite a few windows in my fifteen year life, and I knew it would hurt, but I also knew pain didn’t matter. Escaping mattered.
Wham! My right shoulder smashed against the glass, but it didn’t break. I bounced off it and dropped hard, like a brick. Time slowed. I heard the pop of a tranquilizer gun and felt a dart pinch my leg as I crashed to the ground.
Above me, Fang watched, expressionless.
Excerpted from the book Angel: A Maximum Ride Novel by James Patterson . Copyright © 2011 by James Patterson. Reprinted with permission of Little, Brown and Company, New York, NY. All rights reserved.
LIKE THE LUXURY CO-OPS and five-star French eateries located in Manhattan’s Silk Stocking District, Benchley East Side Parking was outrageously exclusive. Tucked side by side and bumper to bumper within its four temperature-controlled underground levels beneath East 77th Street were several vintage Porsches, a handful of Ferraris, even a pair of his-and-hers Lamborghinis.
The out-of-the-box midnight blue SL550 Mercedes convertible that squealed out of its car elevator at three minutes past noon that Saturday seemed tailor-fit to the high-rent neighborhood.
So did the lean forty-something waiting by the garage’s office when the sleek Merc stopped on a dime out front.
With his salt-and-pepper Beckham buzz cut, pressed khakis, silk navy golf shirt, and deep golden tan that suggested even deeper pockets, it was hard to tell if the car or its driver was being described by the purring Merc’s vanity plate:
“With this heat, I figured you’d want the top down, as usual, Mr. Berger,” the smiling half-Hispanic, half-Asian garage attendant said as he bounced out and held open the wood-inlaid door. “Have a good one, now.”
“Thanks, Tommy,” Berger said, deftly slipping the man a five as he slid behind the luxury sports car’s iconic three-pronged steering wheel. “I’ll give it a shot.”
The fine leather seat slammed luxuriously into Berger’s back as he launched the convertible with a high-torque snarl down East 77th Street and out onto Fifth Avenue.
The crisp, almost sweet smell of Central Park’s pin oaks and dogwoods fused harmoniously with the scent of the hand-stitched leather. At 59th Street, the park’s treetops gave way to the ornate fairy-tale facade of the Plaza Hotel. Moments later, along both sides of the upscale boulevard, glittering signs began to flick past like a Vanity Fair magazine come to life: Tiffanys, Chanel, Zegna, Pucci, Fendi, Louis Vuitton. Outside the stores, swarms of summer Saturday tourists took pictures and stood gaping as if they were having trouble believing they were standing in the very center of the capital of the world.
But the world’s most expensive avenue might as well have been a dirt road through a shit kicker’s cornfield as far as Berger was concerned. Behind the mirrored lenses of his Persol aviators, he kept his gray eyes locked level and forward, his mind blank.
It was his one true talent. In his life, every victory had come down to singleness of purpose, his ability to focus, to leave out everything but the matter at hand.
Even so, he felt his pulse skitter when he finally arrived at his destination, the New York Public Library’s main branch on the west side of Fifth Avenue between 41st and 42nd Streets. In fact, as he slowed, he felt his adrenaline surge, and his heart begin to beat almost painfully in time with the car’s indicator.
Copyright @ 2011 James Patterson
HERE’S WHAT HAPPENED, to the best of my shattered ability to recall it.
I do remember that I couldn’t have been more lost and alone as I wandered the streets of this gray, crowded, andforsaken city. Where is my sister? Where are the others from the Resistance? I kept thinking, or maybe muttering the
words like some homeless madman.
The New Order has already disfigured this once beautifulcity beyond recognition. It seems like a decaying corpse swelling with mindless maggots. The suffocatingly low sky, the featureless buildings — even the faces of the nervouslyrushing people fl ooding around me — are as colorless and lifeless as the concrete under my feet.
I know the general populace has been efficiently brainwashed by the New Order, but these citizens seem a little too hushed, a little too urgent, a little too riveted to the scraps of propaganda clutched in their hands like prayer books.
Suddenly, my eyes spot a word in bold letters on the paper: EXECUTION.
And then the huge video displays hanging above the boulevard light up, and everything becomes clear to me. Every pedestrian stops and stands stock-still, and every
head turns upward as if there has suddenly been an eclipse.
On the video screens, a hooded prisoner — small-framed, frail-looking — is kneeling on a starkly lit stage.
“Wisteria Allgood,” blares a bone-chilling voice, “do you wish to confess to the use of the dark arts for the wicked purpose of undermining all that is good and proper
in our society?”
This can’t be happening. My heart is a big lump in my throat. Wisty? Did that voice really just say Wisteria Allgood? My sister’s on an executioner’s scaffold?
I grab a slack-jawed adult by his dismally gray overcoat lapels. “Where is this execution happening? Tell me right now!”
“The Courtyard of Justice.” He blinks at me irritably, asif I’ve woken him from a deep sleep. “Where else?”
“Courtyard of Justice? Where’s that? ” I demand of the man, throwing my hands around his neck, nearly losing control of my own strength. I swear, I’m ready to throw
this adult against a wall if I have to.
“Under the victory arch — down there,” he gasps. He points at a boulevard that runs off to my left. “Let me go! I’ll call the police!”
I shove him and take off running toward a massive ceremonial arch maybe a half mile away.
“You! Wait!” he yells after me. “Don’t I know your face from somewhere?”
He does. Oh yes. And so would everyone else, if they took the time to notice that there was a wanted criminal running loose in their midst.
But his fellow citizens’ eyes remain glued to the screen. They’ve got an insatiable appetite for malicious gossip of any kind and, of course, an equal taste for senseless death
Even when the falsely condemned are kids. Just kids.
I can hear a distant roar now. The sound of hunger — for “justice,” for blood.
I forge ahead into the pathetic herd of lemmings. I’m not going to let them take my sister from me. Not without a fight to the death anyway.
Copyright © James Patterson
It had been months since Kyle Craig had killed a man. Once upon a time, he’d been the type who needed everything yesterday, if not sooner. But no more. if years of hellish solitude in ADX Florence in Colorado had taught him nothing else, it was how to wait for what he wanted.
He sat patiently in the foyer of his quarry’s Miami apartment, weapon cradled on his lap, watching the lights of the harbor and biding his time. He was in no particular hurry, enjoying the view, maybe finally learning to enjoy life. He certainly looked relaxed —faded jeans, sandals, a T-shirt that said CONSIDER THIS FAIR WARNING.
At 2:12 a.m., a key sounded in the lock. Kyle immediately rose to his feet and pressed his back against the wall, hanging there as silently as a piece of art.
The man of the hour, max Siegel, was whistling as he came in. Kyle recognized the melody, an old snatch from his childhood. it was from Peter and the Wolf. The strings section —Peter’s hunting theme. Ironically enough.
He waited for Mr. Siegel to close the door behind him and take a few more steps into the still-dark apartment. Then Kyle leveled his red laser site and squeezed the trigger. “Hello, Mr. Siegel,” he said. “Good to meet you.”
A stream of electrically charged saline solution hit Siegel squarely in the back, carrying fifty thousand volts with it. He grunted between clenched teeth. His shoulders seized up just before his body went completely rigid, and he fell like a tree to the floor.
Kyle didn’t hesitate for a second. He quickly slipped a nylon cord across Siegel’s throat, wound it around three times, and started to drag him in a small circle to sop up the saline solution on the floor, then yanked him straight through the apartment toward the master bath in the back. Siegel was too weak to struggle. Whatever effort he could muster was spent on the cord itself, trying not to be strangled.
“Don’t fight me,” Kyle said finally. “There’s no point in it.”
In the bathroom, Kyle lifted him into the oversize tub and tied off the ends of the cord to one of the chrome fixtures. It wasn’t necessary, physically speaking, but it kept Siegel’s head up where Kyle could see his face.
“You probably don’t even know about these, do you?” he said, holding up the strange gun he’d carried in. “i know you’ve been underground awhile, but trust me, they’re going to be huge.”
The thing looked like a Super Soaker, which it kind of was. Regular Tasers could go for thirty seconds at best. This baby could run and run, thanks to a two-gallon wearable water pack strapped to his back.
“What...do you want?” Siegel finally choked out in response to the madness.
Kyle withdrew a small Canon digital camera from his pocket and started taking pictures. Full face, left profile, right profile.
“I know who you are, Agent Siegel. Let’s start there, okay?”
Excerpt of CROSS FIRE granted with permission by Little, Brown and Company, New York, NY. Copyright © 2010 by James Patterson
LOMBARDO’S STEAKHOUSE ON Manhattan’s tony Upper East Side was justly famous for two things, two specialties of the house. The first was its double-thick, artery-clogging forty-six-ounce porterhouse, the mere sight of which could give a vegan an apoplectic seizure.
The second claim to fame was its clientele.
Simply put, Lombardo’s Steakhouse was paparazzi heaven. From A-list actors to all-star pro athletes, CEOs to super-models, rap stars to poet laureates — anyone who was anyone could be spotted at Lombardo’s, whether they were brokering deals or just looking and acting fabulous.
Zagat, the ubiquitous red bible of dining guides, said it best: “Get ready to rub elbows and egos with the jet set, because Lombardo’s is definitely the place to see and be seen.”
Unless you were Bruno Torenzi, that is.
He was the man who was about to make Lombardo’s Steakhouse renowned for something else. Something terrible, just unbelievably awful.
And no one seemed to notice him . . . until it was too late . . . until the deed was almost done.
Of course, that was the idea, wasn’t it? In his black three-button Ermenegildo Zegna suit and dark-tinted sunglasses, Bruno Torenzi could have been anybody. He could have been everybody.
Besides, it was lunch. Broad daylight, for Christ’s sake.
For something this sick and depraved to go down, you would have at least thought nighttime. Hell, make that a full moon with a chorus of howling wolves.
“Can I help you, sir?” inquired the hostess, Tiffany, the one person who did manage to notice Torenzi if only because it was her job. She was a young and stunning blonde from the Midwest, with perfect porcelain skin, who could turn more heads than a chiropractor.
But it was as if she didn’t even exist.
Torenzi didn’t stop, didn’t even glance her way when she spoke to him. He just waltzed right by her, cool as a cabana.
Screw it, thought the busy hostess, letting him go. The restaurant was packed as always, and he certainly looked like he belonged. There were other customers arriving, getting in her face as only New Yorkers can. Surely this guy was meeting up with someone who was already seated.
She was right about that much.
Table chatter, clanking silverware, the iconic jazz of John Coltrane filtering down from the recessed ceiling speakers — they all combined to fill the mahogany-paneled dining room of Lombardo’s with a continuous loop of the most pleasant sort of white noise.
Torenzi heard none of it.
He’d been hired because of his discipline, his unyielding focus. In his mind there was only one other person in the busy restaurant. Just one.
Thirty feet . . .
Torenzi had spotted the table in the far right corner. A special table, no doubt about that. For a very special customer.
Twenty feet . . .
He cut sharply over to another aisle, the heels of his black wingtips clicking against the polished wood floor like a metronome in three-quarter time.
Excerpted from the book Don’t Blink by James Patterson. Copyright © 2010 by James Patterson
“It’s very small,” the Englishwoman said, sounding
Mac Rudolph laughed, put his arm around the woman’s
slender neck, and allowed his hand to fall onto her breast.
She wasn’t wearing a bra.
“Oil on a wooden panel,” he said. “Thirty inches by
twenty-one, or seventy-seven centimeters by fifty-three. It
was meant to hang in the dining room in the home of the
Florentine merchant Francesco del Giocondo. But da Vinci
never got it finished.”
He felt her nipple stiffen under the fabric of the blouse.
She didn’t move his hand away.
Sylvia Rudolph slid up on the other side of her, her hand
easing its way under the woman’s arm.
“Mona Lisa wasn’t her name,” Sylvia said. “Just Lisa.
Mona is an Italian diminutive that can be taken to mean
‘lady’ or ‘her grace.’ ”
The woman’s husband was standing behind Sylvia, his
body pushed up against hers in the crowd. Very cozy.
“Anyone thirsty?” he asked.
Sylvia and Mac exchanged a quick glance and a grin.
They were on the first floor of the Denon wing of the
Louvre, in the Salle des États. Hanging on the wall in front
of them, behind nonreflective glass, was the most famous
portrait in the world, and the guy was thinking about beer?
“You’re right,” Mac said, his hand gently gliding down
the Englishwoman’s back. “It is small. Francesco del Giocondo’s
dining room table can’t have been very large.”
He smiled over at the woman’s husband.
“And you’re right, too. It’s time to drink some wine!”
They found their way out of the museum, down the modern
staircase toward the Porte des Lions, and stepped out
into the middle of a Parisian spring evening.
Sylvia inhaled deeply, breathing in the intoxicating mix
of exhaust fumes, river water, and freshly opened leaves, and
laughed out loud.
“Oh,” she said, hugging the Englishwoman, “I’m so glad
we met you. Honeymoons are all very well and good, but
you have to see a bit of the world, too, don’t you? Have you
had time to see Notre-Dame yet?”
“We only got here this morning,” her husband said.
“We’ve hardly had time to eat.”
“Well, we must do something about that at once,” Mac said.
“We know a little place down by the Seine. It’s wonderful,
you’ll love it.”
“Notre-Dame is fantastic,” Sylvia said. “One of the first
Gothic cathedrals in the world, strongly influenced by naturalism.
You’re going to love the South Rose Window.”
She kissed the woman on the cheek, lingering for a
They crossed the river on the Pont d’Arcole, passed the
cathedral, and arrived at the Quai de Montebello just as
someone started playing a melancholy tune on an
“Order whatever you like,” Mac said, holding the door
of the bistro open. “It’s on us. We’re celebrating your
Excerpt from THE POSTCARD KILLERS granted with permission by Little,Brown and Company, New York, NY. Copyright © 2010 by James Patterson.
I JUMPED DOWN from the tree and dusted myself off.
You think playing soccer is dirty?
Try being the ball.
A couple of minutes later, the five of us were strolling down an English country road that was cuter than a postcard. Our pickup soccer match had been a good distraction, but now it was almost eight and night was starting to fall.
“Well, let’s hoof it, guys,” I suggested. “In a couple of hours we can find somewhere safe to camp out.”
“A couple of hours?” Dana complained. “Can’t you materialize a car for us orsomething? Teleport us?”
“Too tired,” I replied. “Takes a lot of focus. Which I don’t have much of after you guys kicked the bejeezus out of me.”
A light from behind made us turn around. A large vehicle was approaching and appeared to be slowing down. My friends moved back toward the shadows, ready to disappear if need be.
Fortunately, they didn’t have to. As the vehicle pulled up alongside me, I saw that it was a beat-up van, probably large enough to hold ten or eleven. A tiny woman with short gray hair was behind the wheel, wearing a tweed suit that was at least two sizes too big for her.
She rolled down her window and peered with careworn eyes into the darkness behind me. I thought she would ask directions, but instead she asked, “Are you lost, dearies?” I liked the nice smile lines around her mouth. I liked her spacious van even more.
I put on my best harmless-backpacking-tourist face. “I’m afraid we’re stranded, ma’am. We’re trying to get to London.” To catch some aliens - Number 3 on The List of Alien Outlaws on Terra Firma, to be exact.
“Oh, Americans . . . !” She smiled. “Well, I’m heading that way. Hop aboard.”
Copyright © 2010 by James Patterson
TO THE BEST OF my understandably shaky recollection,
the first time I died it went something like this.
Mortar rounds were thumping all around me, releasing
what sounded like a shower of razor blades. I was carrying
Marine Corporal Danny Young over my shoulder, and I loved
this guy. He was the toughest soldier I’d ever fought beside,
funny as hell, and best of all, he was hopeful - his wife back
in West Texas was pregnant with their fourth kid.
Now his blood bubbled down my flight suit, splashing on
my boots like water from a drainpipe. I ran across rocky ground in the dark, and I choked out to Danny, “I’ve got you; I’ve got you. Just stay with me, you hear me?”
I lowered him to the ground a few yards away from the
helicopter, and suddenly there was a concussive explosion, as though the ground had blown up around me. I felt a stunning hammer strike to my chest, and that was the end.
I died. I passed to the other side. I don’t even know how
long I was gone.
Del Rio told me later that my heart had stopped.
I just remember swimming up to the light, and the pain,
and the awful reek of aviation fuel.
My eyes flashed open and there was Del Rio in my face,
his hands pressing down on my chest. He laughed when my
eyes opened - and at the same time tears ran down his
cheeks. He said, “Jack, you son of a bitch, you’re back.”
A dense curtain of oily black smoke rolled over us. Danny
Young lay right there beside me, his legs splayed at weird
angles, and behind Del Rio was the helicopter, burning bright
white, getting ready to blow.
My buddies were still in there. My friends. Guys who had
risked their lives for me.
I choked out a few words. “We’ve got to get them out of
Excerpt from PRIVATE with permission from Little,Brown and Company, New York, NY Copyright ©
Peter Gordon followed the young mom out of Macy’s and onto the street outside the Stonestown Galleria. Mom was about thirty, her brown hair in a messy pony-tail, wearing a lot of red, not just the shorts, but the red sneakers and a red purse. Shopping bags hung from the handles of her baby’s stroller.
Pete was behind the woman when she crossed Winston Street at the light, still almost on her heels as she entered the parking garage talking to the infant as if he could understand her, asking him if he remembered where Mommy parked the car and what would Daddy want for dinner, chattering away, the whole running baby-talk commentary like a fuse lit by the woman’s mouth, terminating at the charge inside Petey’s brain.
But, Petey stayed focused on his target. He listened and watched, kept his head down, hands in his pockets, saw the woman unlock the hatch of her RAV 4 and jam her shopping bags inside. He was only yards away from her when she hoisted the baby out of its stroller and folded that into the back, too.
The woman was strapping the baby into the car seat, when he started toward her.
“Ma’am? Can you help me out, please?”
The woman drew her brows together, what do you want? written all over her face as she saw him. She got into the front seat now, had her keys in her hand.
“Yes?” she said.
Pete Gordon knew that he looked healthy and clean and wide-eyed and trustworthy. His All-American good looks were an asset, but he wasn’t vain. No more than a Venus flytrap was vain.
“I’ve got a flat,” Pete said, throwing up his hands. “I really hate to ask, but could I use your cell phone to call triple A?”
He flashed a smile, got the dimples going and at last, she smiled, too and said, “I do that. Forget to charge the darned thing.”
She dug into her purse, looked up with the cell phone in hand. Then, her smile wavered as she read Pete’s new expression, no longer eager to please, but hard and determined.
She dropped her eyes to the gun he was holding, thinking that somehow she’d gotten it wrong, looked back into his face and saw the chill in his dark eyes.
She jerked away from him, dropping her keys and her phone into the foot well, half-way climbing into the backseat.
“Oh my God,” she said. “Don’t -- do anything. I’ve got cash --.”
Pete fired, the round whizzing through the suppressor, hitting the woman in the neck. She grabbed at the wound, blood spouting through her fingers.
“My baby,” she gasped.
“Don’t worry. He won’t feel anything. I promise,” Pete Gordon said.
He shot the woman again, pooof, this time in the chest, then opened the back door and looked at the bawler, nodding off, mouth sticky with candy, blue veins tracing a roadmap across his temple.
Copyright© 2010 James Patterson
Excerpt by permission of Little, Brown and Company
The last thing he remembered was leaving Conrad’s, an Alphabet City bar that didn’t care about fake IDs. After a monstrously long chem. Lab, he’d been trying to chat up Heli, a stunning Finnish girl from his class. But after his fifth mojito, his tongue was losing speed. He’d called it a night when he noticed she was talking more to the male model of a bartender than to him.
His memory seemed to stop at the point when he stepped outside. How he got from there to here he couldn’t recall.
For the billionth time, he tried to come up with a scenario in which everything turned out all right. His favorite was that it was a fraternity thing. A bunch of jocks had mistaken him for some other freshman, and this was a really messed-up hazing incident.
He started weeping. Where were his clothes? Why would somebody take his jeans, his socks and shoes? The scenarios in his head were too black to allow light to enter. He couldn’t fool himself. He was in the deepest shit of his young life.
He banged his head on the pipe he was chained to as he heard a sound. It was the distant boom of a door. He felt his heart boom with it. His breath didn’t seem to know if it wanted to come in or go out.
He was pretty much convulsing when he made out a jangle interspersed with the steady approach of footsteps. He suddenly thought of the handyman at his parents’ building, the merry jingle of keys that bounced off his thigh. Skinny Mr. Durkin, who always had a tool in his hand. Hope gave him courage. It was a friend, he decided. Somebody who would save him.
“Hppp!” Jacob screamed from behind the gag.
The footsteps stopped. A lock clacked open, and cool air passed over the skin of his face. The gag was pulled off.
“Thank you! Oh, thank you! I don’t know what happened. I Ð“
Jacob’s breath blasted out of him as he was hit in the stomach with something tremendously hard. It was a steel-toed boot, and it seemed to knock his stomach clear through his spine.
Oh, God, Jacob thought, his head scraping the stone floor as he dry-heaved in filth. Dear God, please help me.
From the book, WORSE CASE by James Patterson. Copyright © 2010 by James Patterson
I celebrated my birthday with a small, very exclusive, very festive and fun
party on Fifth Street. It was just the way I wanted it.
Damon had come home from boarding school in Massachusetts as a special
surprise. Nana was there, acting large and in charge of the festivities,
along with my babies, Jannie and Ali. Sampson and his family were on hand;
and of course Bree was there.
Only the people I loved most in the world were invited. Who else would you
want to celebrate another year older and wiser with?
I even made a little speech that night, most of which I forgot immediately,
but not the opening few words. "I, Alex Cross," I began, "do solemnly
promise - to all those present at this birthday party - to do my best to
balance my life at home with my work life, and not to go over to the dark
side ever again."
Nana raised her coffee cup in salute, but then she said, "Too late for
that," which got a laugh.
Then, to a person, everybody did their best to make sure I was aging with a
little humility but also a smile on my face.
"Remember that time at Redskin stadium?" Damon cackled. "When Dad locked
the keys in the old car?"
I tried cutting in. "To be fair -"
"Called me out of bed past midnight," Sampson said, and growled.
"Only after he tried breaking in for an hour because he didn't want to admit
he couldn't do it," Nana said.
Jannie cupped a hand around her ear. "Cause he's what?" And everyone
chorused back, "America's Sherlock Holmes!" It was a reference to a
national-magazine piece from a few years ago that I will apparently never
I swigged my beer. "Brilliant career - or so they say - dozens of big cases
solved, and what am I to be remembered for? Seems to me, someone was
supposed to have a happy birthday tonight."
"Which reminds me," Nana said, somehow taking the bait and cutting me off at
the same time. "we've got a piece of unfinished business here. Children??
Jannie and Ali jumped up, more excited than anyone. Apparently, there was a
Big Surprise coming for me now. No one was saying what it was, but I'd
already opened a pair of Serengetis from Bree, a loud shirt and two minis of
tequila from Sampson, and a stack of books from the kids that includeded the
latest George Pelecanos and a biography of Keith Richards.
Another clue, if I can call it that, was the fact that Bree and I had become
notorious plan cancellers, with one long weekend after another falling by
the wayside since we'd met. You might think that working in the same
department, same division - Homicide - would make it easier for us to
coordinate our schedules, but it was just the opposite most of the time.
So I had some idea, but nothing really specific, about what might be coming.
"Alex, you stay put," said Ali. He'd started calling me Alex lately, which
I thought was all right but for some reason gave Nana the creeps.
Bree said she'd keep an eye on me and stayed back while everyone else snuck
off to the kitchen.
From the excerpt of I, Alex Cross (c) James Patterson
"LET HER HANG until she's dead!"
"Take her out and hang her now! I'll do it myself!"
Bam! Bam! Bam!
Judge Otis L. Warren wielded his gavel with such fury I
thought he might smash a hole in the top of his bench.
"Quiet in the court!" the judge shouted. "Settle down, or by
God I will hold every last one of you sons of bitches in contempt."
Bam! Bam! Bam!
It was no use. Warren's courtroom was overflowing with
disgruntled white citizens who wanted nothing more than to
see my client hang. Two of them on the left side began a chant that was soon taken up by others:
We don't care where. We don't care how.
We just wanna hang Gracie Johnson now!
The shouts from some among the white majority sent such
a shiver of fear through the colored balcony that one woman
fainted and had to be carried out.
Another bang of the gavel. Judge Warren stood and shouted,
"Mr. Loomis, escort all those in the colored section out of my courtroom and out of the building."
I couldn't hold my tongue another second.
"Your Honor, I object! I don't see any of the colored folks
being rowdy or disrespectful. The ones making the fuss are
the white men in front."
Judge Warren glared over his glasses at me. His expression
intimidated the room into silence.
"Mr. Corbett, it is my job to decide how to keep order in
my court. It is your job to counsel your client - and let me tell you, from where I sit, she needs all the help she can get."
I couldn't disagree.
What I once thought would be an easy victory in the case
of District of Columbia v. Johnson was swiftly turning into a
disaster for Gracie and her increasingly helpless attorney, Benjamin E. Corbett: that being myself.
Gracie Johnson was on trial for the murder of Lydia Davenport, a wealthy white woman who was active in Washington
society at a level high enough to cause a nosebleed. Worse,
Gracie was a black woman accused of killing her wealthy white
The year was 1906. Before it was all over, I was afraid they
were going to hang Gracie.
I had to be careful they didn't hang me while they were at it.
(c) James Patterson
KIM MCDANIELS WAS BAREFOOT and wearing a blue-and-white-striped Juicy Couture minidress when she was awakened by a thump against her hip, a bruising thump. She opened her eyes in the blackness, as questions broke the surface of her mind.
Where was she? What the hell was going on?
She wrestled with the blanket draped over her head, finally got her face free, realized a couple of new things. Her hands and feet were bound. And she was in some kind of cramped compartment.
Another thump jolted her, and Kim yelled this time, "Hey!"
Her shout went nowhere, muffled by the confined space, the vibration of an engine. She realized she was inside the trunk of a car. But that made no freaking sense! She told her self to wake up!
But she was awake, feeling the bumps for real, and so she fought, twisting her wrists against a knotted nylon rope that didn't give. She rolled onto her back, tucking her knees to her chest, then bam! She kicked up at the lid of the trunk, not budging it a fraction of an inch.
She did it again, again, again, and now pain was shooting from her soles to her hips, but she was still locked up, and now she was hurting. Panic seized her and shook her hard.
She was caught. She was trapped. She didn't know how this had happened or why, but she wasn't dead and she wasn't injured. She would get away.
Using her bound hands as a claw, Kim felt around for a toolbox, a jack or a crowbar, but she found nothing, and the air was getting thin and foul as she panted alone in the dark.
Why was she here?
Kim searched for her last memory, but her mind was sluggish, as if a blanket had been thrown over her brain, too. She could only guess that she'd been drugged. Someone had slipped her a roofie, but who? When?
"Helllllllpppp! Let me out!" she yelled, kicking out at the trunk lid, banging her head against a hard metal ridge. Her eyes were filling with tears and she was getting mad now on top of being scared out of her mind.
Through her tears, Kim felt a five-inch-long bar just above her. It had to be the interior trunk release lever, and she whispered, "Thank you, God."
KIM'S CLAW-HANDS TREMBLED as she reached up, hooked her fingertips over the lever, and pulled down. The bar moved - too easily - and it didn't pop the lid.
She tried again, pulling repeatedly, frantically working against her certain knowledge that the release bar had been disabled, that the cable had been cut - when Kim felt the car wheels leave the asphalt. The ride smoothed out, and that made her think the car might be rolling over sand.
Was it going into the ocean?
Was she going to drown in this trunk?
She screamed again, a loud, wordless shriek of terror that turned into a gibbering prayer, Dear God, let me out of this alive, and I promise you - and when her scream ran out, she heard music coming from behind her head. It was a female vocalist, something bluesy, a song she didn't know.
-From the book, Swimsuit.
MY PARTNER, RICH CONKLIN, was at the wheel of our unmarked car and I was sugaring my coffee when I felt the concussion.
The dashboard shook. Hot coffee slopped over my hand. I shouted, "What the hell?" A few moments later the radio sputtered, the dispatcher calling out, "Reports of an explosion at Market and Fourth. Nearby units identify and respond."
I dumped my coffee out the window, grabbed the mic, and told Dispatch we were two blocks away as Conklin accelerated up the hill, then braked so that our car slewed across Fourth Street, blocking traffic.
We bolted from the car, Conklin yelling, "Lindsay, watch out. There could be secondary explosions!"
The air was opaque with roiling smoke, rank with burning rubber, plastic, and human flesh. I stopped running, wiped my sleeve across my stinging eyes, and fought against my gag reflex. I took in the hellish scene - and my hair literally lifted away from the back of my neck.
Market Street is a major artery. It should have been pulsing with commuter traffic, but instead it looked like Baghdad after a suicide bomb. People were screaming, running in circles, blinded by panic and a screen of smoky haze.
I called Chief Tracchio, reported that I was the first officer on the scene.
"What's happening, Sergeant?"
I told him what I saw: five dead on the street, two more at the bus stop. "Unknown number of victims alive or dead, still in their cars," I coughed into the phone.
"You okay, Boxer?"
I signed off as cruisers, fire rigs, and EMS units, their sirens whooping, streamed onto Market and formed a perimeter at Third and at Fifth, blocking off oncoming traffic. Moments later, the command vehicle rolled up, and the bomb squad, covered top to toe in gray protective suits, poured onto the debris field.
A bloodied woman of indeterminate age and race staggered toward me. I caught her as her knees buckled, and Conklin and I helped her to a gurney.
"I saw it," the victim whispered. She pointed to a blackened hulk at the intersection. "That school bus was a bomb."
"A school bus? Please, God, not kids!"
I looked everywhere but saw no children.
Had they all been burned alive?
(c) 2009 James Patterson
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