By James Patterson
Published by Little Brown & Company
November 2001; 0-316-69323-5; 400 pages
WITHOUT ANY WARNING
NOTHING EVER STARTS where we think it does. So of course this doesn't begin with the vicious and cowardly murder of an FBI agent and good friend named Betsey Cavalierre. I only thought that it did. My mistake, and a really big and painful one.
I arrived at Betsey's house in Woodbridge, Virginia, in the middle of the night. I'd never been there before, but I didn't have any trouble finding it. The FBI and EMS were already there. There were flashing red and yellow lights everywhere, seeming to paint the lawn and front porch with bright, dangerous streaks.
I took a deep breath and walked inside. My sense of balance was off. I was reeling. I acknowledged a tall blond FBI agent I knew named Sandy Hammonds. I could see that Sandy had been crying. She was a friend of Betsey's.
On a hallway table I saw Betsey's service revolver. Beside it was a printed reminder for her next shooting qualifier at the FBI range. The irony stung.
I forced myself to walk down a long hallway that led from the living room to the back of the house. The house looked to be close to a hundred years old and was filled with the kind of country clutter that she'd loved. The master bedroom was situated at the end of the hall.
I knew instantly that the murder had happened in there. The FBI techs and the local police were swarming around the open door like angry wasps near a threatened hive. The house was strangely, eerily quiet. This was as bad as it gets, worse than anything else. Ever.
Another one of my partners was dead.
The second one brutally murdered in two years. And Betsey had been much more than just a partner. How could this have happened? What did it mean? I saw Betsey's small body sprawled on the hardwood floor and I went cold. My hand flew to my face, a reflex I had no control over.
The killer had stripped off her nightclothes. I didn't see them anywhere in the bedroom. The lower body was coated with blood. He'd used a knife. He'd punished Betsey with it. I desperately wanted to cover her, but I knew I couldn't.
Betsey's brown eyes were staring up at me, but they saw nothing. I remembered kissing those eyes and that sweet face. I remembered Betsey's laugh, high-pitched and musical. I stood there for a long time, mourning Betsey, missing her terribly. I wanted to turn away, but I didn't. I just couldn't leave her like this.
As I stood there in the bedroom, trying to figure out something coherent about Betsey's murder, the cell phone in my jacket pocket went off. I jumped. I grabbed it, but then I hesitated. I didn't want to answer.
"Alex Cross," I finally spoke into the receiver.
I heard a machine-filtered voice and it cut right through me. I shuddered against my will.
"I know who this is and I even know where you are. At poor, dear, butchered Betsey's. Do you feel a little bit like a puppet on a string, Detective? You should," said the Mastermind. "Because that's what you are. You're my favorite puppet, in fact."
"Why did you kill her?" I asked the monster. "You didn't have to do this."
He laughed a mechanical laugh and the hairs on the back of my neck stood up. "You ought to be able to figure that out, no? You're the famous Detective Alex Cross. You have all those big, important cases notched on your belt. You caught Gary Soneji, Casanova. You solved Jack and Jill. Christ, you're impressive."
I spoke in a low voice. "Why don't you come after me right now? How about tonight? As you say, you know where I am."
The Mastermind laughed again, quietly, almost under his breath. "How about I kill your grandmother and your three kids tonight? I know where they are too. You left your partner with them, didn't you? You think he can stop me? John Sampson doesn't have a chance against me."
I hung up and ran out of the house in Woodbridge. I called Sampson in Washington and he picked up on the second ring.
"Everything okay there?" I gasped. "Everything's fine, Alex. No problems here. You don't sound too good, though. What's up? What happened?"
"He said he's coming for you and Nana and the kids," I told John. "The Mastermind."
"Not going to happen, sugar. Nobody will get past me. I hope to hell he tries."
"Be careful, John. I'm on my way back to Washington right now. Please be careful. He's crazy. He didn't just kill Betsey, he defiled her."
I ended the call with Sampson and I sprinted full-out toward my old Porsche.
The cell phone rang again before I got to the car.
"Cross," I answered, still running as I spoke, trying to steady the phone against my chin and ear.
It was him again. He was laughing maniacally. "You can relax, Dr. Cross. I can hear your labored breathing. I'm not going to hurt them tonight. I was just fucking with you. Having some fun at your expense.
"You're running, aren't you? Keep running, Dr. Cross. But you won't be fast enough. You can't get away from me. It's you I want. You're next, Dr. Cross."Copyright © 2001 by James Patterson
Reprinted with permission. (back to top)
Detective Alex Cross must confront his most terrifying nemesis everand his own deepest fearsin this electrifying new thriller.
The malign criminal genius of Roses Are Red is fixing to give Alex a hard time once again. The FBI joins Patterson's dogged cop in a particularly unsettling investigation: two San Francisco joggers have been viciously murdered and are found suspended by their feet, with all the blood drained from their corpses. And when further brutal deaths follow in California and on the East Coast, Alex is forced to contemplate the bizarre possibility of modern-day vampires, although his instincts point him to one of the many sinister religious cults that flourish on the West Coast. Aided by Jamilla Hughes, a streetwise young woman detective from San Francisco, Alex finds that he has to crack not one but two impenetrable mysteries to stop further bloodletting.
Amazon readers rating: from 205 reviews
After initially being turned down by twenty-six publishers, James Patterson's first novel, The Thomas Berryman Number, was published and went on to win the Edgar Award for Best First Mystery Novel. That was in 1976 when he was just twenty-seven years old.
Twenty-three years later, Patterson has penned over one-half dozen novels and has created one of America's most memorable modern heroes, Alex Cross. With the publication of the bestseller Along Came a Spider in 1993, Patterson's popularity as a mastermind of page-turning thrillers was set. Kiss the Girls followed and was turned into a major motion picture by Paramount starring the inimitable Morgan Freeman as Alex Cross.
In addition to writing novels, Mr. Patterson served as chairman of J. Walter Thompson, North America from 1990 to 1996. He began his advertising career as a junior copywriter with the company in 1971 and went on to become the youngest executive creative director and youngest chief executive officer in the company's history. He made his mark at the agency by creating award-winning campaigns for Kodak, Burger King, Toys R' Us, Bell Atlantic, Bristol-Myers and others. He collaborated with advertising colleague Peter Kim to produce the nonfiction bestseller The Day America Told the Truth.
Patterson grew up in Newburgh, New York, fifty miles north of New York City. He graduated summa cum laude with a B.A. in English from Manhattan College and summa cum laude with an M.A. in English from Vanderbilt University.
James Patterson lives in Palm Beach County, Florida, with his wife and their young son.