By James Patterson

By James O. Born

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Only Detective Michael Bennett stands in the way of two lethal cartels fighting for New York City’s multi-million-dollar opioid trade. And they know where he and his family live.

An anonymous tip about a crime in Upper Manhattan proves to be a setup. An officer is taken down — and, despite the attackers’ efforts, it’s not Michael Bennett.

New York’s top cop is not the only one at risk. One of Bennett’s children sustains a mysterious injury. And a series of murders follows, each with a distinct signature, alerting Bennett to the presence of a professional killer with a flair for disguise.

Bennett taps his best investigators and sources, and they fan out across the five boroughs. But the leads they’re chasing turn out to be phantoms. The assassin takes advantage of the chaos, enticing an officer into compromising Bennett, then luring another member of Bennett’s family into even graver danger.

Michael Bennett can’t tell what’s driving the assassin. But he can tell it’s personal, and that it’s part of something huge. Through twist after twist, he fights to understand exactly how he fits into the killer’s plan, before he becomes the ultimate victim.


Chapter 1

I watched the eight-story apartment building on 161st, about half a block from Melrose Avenue. Nothing special about it. Old window air-conditioning units dotted the facade, but the place had a certain charm. Of course, over years of surveillance in unsavory neighborhoods of New York City, I’ve learned to adjust my expectations.

My partner, Antrole Martens, and I were sitting in his Crown Victoria. By tradition, the most beat-up car in our homicide unit went to the rookie on the squad. Despite its faint odor of vomit, Martens had handled the assignment of the shitty car with grace in his six years with the NYPD. He understood he had to earn his place in the unit, but there was no doubt he was on his way up. I thought he was exactly the kind of cop we needed in a command position.

I wanted this arrest to go well for him. I could still remember my first arrest in Homicide. A pimp named Hermine Paschual. He’d stabbed a john who’d argued about the price. At the time, I thought I was changing the world.

Now it was my job to make sure things went right. I said, “How sure are you about this tip?”

He smiled. “Sure enough to drag your ass out here with me.”

“Let your kids get a little older and life get a little busier, and we’ll see how serious you take anonymous tips.”

Antrole laughed. “That’s why I’m stopping at two kids. Thinking of you managing ten makes my head spin.”

“Imagine what it does to me.” Just then, my phone rang, and I looked down to see that it was my oldest girl, Juliana. I always answered the phone the same way when one of my daughters called.

“Hello, beautiful.”

“Hey, Dad!”

There was no teenage disdain today. She was excited about something.

“What’s going on, sweetheart?”

“I’ve got big news. But I have to tell you in person.”

“How about at dinner tonight?” I smiled when I heard her giggle. She was not a giggler by nature, so this had to be something good. Harvard flashed in my brain. Although I would’ve preferred Columbia, a few blocks from our apartment on the Upper West Side.

Juliana said, “I can’t wait. I’ll tell the whole family at once. I gotta go. Bye, Dad. Love you.”

Before I could even say “Love you” back, the connection was dead.

Antrole deadpanned, “Can we squeeze some police work in now? After all, this tip was called in to you. I just happened to answer the phone at your desk.”

“Let’s call Alice and Chuck to come with us. Maybe Harry, too.”

Antrole said, “Why the party? We can grab this dope ourselves. We get all the glory, and it’ll be easier to talk to him.”

“He’s a suspect in a murder.”

“And we’re NYPD detectives. I thought in the old days you guys used to make arrests by yourselves.”

“Yeah. We also used to get shot more frequently.”

“Am I going to have to shame you into coming with me? Besides, if we have a few minutes alone with this guy, who knows what he’ll tell us?”

“I hate it when rookies make sense. Let’s go.” His excitement was contagious.

Chapter 2

Everyone out in the neighborhood made us for cops as soon as we started walking down the sidewalk. It wasn’t as if we were working undercover, but a young black guy in a sharp suit and an older white guy wearing a sport coat to cover his gun—we could’ve been in uniform and not been any more obvious.

Our suspect had shot a customer who stiffed him on a bag of heroin in front of a grocery store in Midtown with plenty of witnesses. A poor business plan all around.

The tip said the suspect was in apartment 416. I didn’t trust the elevator to make it up all four floors without some sort of issue, so despite Antrole’s objections, we took the stairs. It gave me a minute to talk to my headstrong partner.

I said, “Nothing fancy. We knock and hope he answers. Maybe we try the door to see if it’s locked. Otherwise we come up with another plan that may or may not involve the SWAT team. Got it?”

Antrole nodded.

At each landing, I took a moment to get a feel for the surroundings. Antrole probably thought I needed to catch my breath, but this climb was nothing compared to the basketball games I played with my kids. I took it slow because every apartment building has its own aura. Sometimes it’s because of the tenants, and sometimes it’s because of the area. Either could kill you if you weren’t careful.

On the fourth landing, I said, “You ready for this? It doesn’t matter what happens—you’ve done a good job getting us this far. Now we have to use our heads.”

“You don’t have to talk to me like I’m some kid out of the academy. I have four years’ patrol experience and two years in the detective bureau. I’m only new to Homicide. Homicide detectives are not the only ones who make arrests.”

“I don’t have to talk to you like that, but I enjoy it. That’s one of the advantages of being senior.”

I appreciated the smile that spread across Antrole’s face. Feeling out a new partner is always an ongoing process, but this guy was all right.

He said, “This suspect might be the key to some of the unsolved homicides connected to the heroin dealers up this way.”

“Could be.” Antrole was looking at the big picture—rare with new homicide detectives. He showed a ton of promise.

The fourth-floor hallway was empty. That was always good. I paused at the stairwell and just listened to the sounds of the apartment building for almost a full minute. Nothing unusual. Latin music from one apartment. Someone talking loudly in another.

As we carefully made our way down the hallway, I heard a TV playing a daytime talk show in another apartment.

The cheap carpet was uneven over a wooden floor that broadcast sound. A wide set of windows at the end of the hallway took the edge off the gloomy vibe of the building.

Then we found ourselves in front of apartment 416. Antrole slipped to the other side of the door and drew his Glock service weapon. I pulled my pistol, too, though I thought it was a little premature.

We listened at the door, and I put my hand against it to see if I could feel any vibration. Unexpectedly, it pushed open a few inches.

I looked to Antrole, who angled his head to see into the apartment.

That was odd. Drug dealers in this neighborhood rarely left their doors unbolted, let alone open. It was nice to catch a break once in a while.

From my angle, I could see the suspect we were looking for sitting on a couch under a wide, dirty window. His head leaned back on the rear of the couch. He wasn’t moving. I motioned to Antrole that I saw someone inside.

The young detective nodded and turned before I could tell him to wait.

A shadow passed the open door, and I heard someone inside. It was a single word. Some kind of command. I wasn’t even sure what language it was. But the subsequent gunfire was unmistakable.

The door appeared to explode, and Antrole jumped to the other side of the doorway, his gun up.

I crouched quickly and fired a couple of rounds into the apartment. I didn’t see a target—it was just to keep the shooters behind cover. We had to move and move quickly.

The gunfire didn’t slow down.

This was an ambush.

Chapter 3

Alexandra “Alex” Martinez aimed her Canon EOS 5D Mark III digital SLR camera at the tallest of the three young men, dressed only in tight white underwear. The abs of all three looked like ice trays, and their arms had just enough meat on them. But the tallest of the three, Chaz, was special. The camera loved Chaz.

Alex realized she was barking at the model next to Chaz when he got too close. It was like having a Matt Groening character pop up in a Renoir.

The top of this building in the Morrisania neighborhood of the Bronx provided an interesting urban backdrop and conveniently put her in position for another assignment. Photographing nearly naked models was fun, but it didn’t pay the bills.

This wasn’t a coincidence. Alex had planned the photo session to the last detail, including the location. Just as she did everything else.

She checked her watch. They’d been at it for more than two hours, but she could wrap it up just about any time she wanted. That was the advantage of being prepared: you usually got the shots you needed quickly.

Then she heard it. A couple of pops, seeming to come from the next block.

The models craned their necks, looked over the side of the building in the direction of the sound. She could look down on 161st Street and see the front of the building the gunfire was coming from.

She turned away from her crew as a smile crept onto her face. It was even more gunfire than she’d anticipated. Michael Bennett had been executed.

Chapter 4

Antrole and I crouched low. Gunfire had a way of triggering the instinct to ball yourself up as small as possible. The ambushers kept firing high, as if they expected us to still be standing. It was a classic mistake. The holes along the door and the wall gave me an idea of where the shooters were in the room.

Both Antrole and I started to return fire with our Glocks. The shooters had lost the element of surprise, and our police training and tactics gave us the upper hand now. I saw a shadow move near the door and peppered it with .40-caliber rounds. Splinters and debris filled the open doorway.

A bullet pinged off a metal door frame across from me. It struck a Pokémon sticker between the eyes. I hoped the shooter wasn’t a good enough shot to have aimed for it.

A splinter the size of a toothpick lodged in my left hand. Pain shot up my arm, and blood spread across my fingers.

Now I could hear the shouts and cries from people in the other apartments, which distracted me from whoever was shooting at us. But only for a moment. A door opened a crack, and a head popped out. All I could see was gray hair.

Antrole shouted, “Police! Get back inside.”

Someone yanked the old man back into the apartment.

Antrole backed against the far wall of the hallway and scooted to my side of the door just as a wave of shots hit the spot where he had been crouched. Shouting at the civilian had given away his position.

He hunkered down next to me with his pistol up, and I felt the tide turning. All we had to do was move down the hallway and wait for the cavalry to arrive. Calls to 911 had to be flooding in about now. Time was on our side.

Then a shotgun blast blew a hand-size hole just above my head. Jesus Christ. It felt like it had come from a bazooka. I choked on some of the drywall dust launched into the air and blinked to clear it out of my eyes. Sweat gathered on my forehead, and I felt myself pant.

The shotgun racked on the other side of the wall. The shooter would fire again at any second.

Antrole yelled, “Clip.”

He was reloading, so I needed to keep my gun up. Our training would save us.

I saw a shadow pass the hole in the wall where the shotgun had done its work and fired twice as Antrole opened up on the doorway again. Someone hit the floor hard on the other side of the wall.

Bullets hit the wall all around us after Antrole fired. He stumbled awkwardly onto the floor.

I looked down and saw that Antrole had been hit in the leg. Blood was pumping out onto the cheap carpet, making the washed-out colors in the fabric come alive with red.

I leaned in close and said, “Can you walk?”

“If it will get us away from here, hell, yes.”

It felt like maybe the gunfight was over. No one was shooting, a welcome change.

Something flew out the door and bounced back off the wall. It made an odd thumping sound on the floor right in front of the door. I saw it roll around in odd arcs on the ground.

Too late I realized it was a hand grenade.

Chapter 5

My eyes focused on the old-style army pineapple grenade, almost hypnotized.

Instinctively, I reached down and grabbed Antrole by the collar. He raised his pistol and fired at whoever had tossed the hand grenade from the other side of the door. It was tough pulling 180 pounds across the rough, cheap carpet, an exercise in physics and friction.

I couldn’t tell how many shooters were left inside the apartment, but Antrole was laying down fire to keep their heads down. At least one of them was still active. I could hear him scuttling around the apartment, then he fired a round through the wall.

Someone at the other end of the hallway popped out of an apartment and started to run. A young man in a white T-shirt disappeared down the stairwell. It distracted the shooter in the apartment, too. For an instant, everything went quiet.

When I had dragged Antrole a few feet down the hallway, his collar gave way and ripped completely from his coat. I tumbled backward onto the floor and felt a sting of pain, a finger on my left hand turned awkwardly. I desperately reached out to grab my partner again. It felt like I had dropped him down a well. I shouted something, but by now my ears were ringing so badly I don’t even know what I said.

That’s when it happened. The grenade detonated.

A giant wave of light and heat. I don’t know that I’d ever experienced anything close to it. I couldn’t even say it made a sound, my ears shut down so fast.

I felt pain on my forehead, but only for a moment.

Then everything went cloudy.

Then it went dark.

Chapter 6

Alex stood with the nearly naked men on the edge of the building, looking toward the sound of the gunfire. She casually raised her camera and focused it. She knew exactly which building the sound was coming from.

She knew which building it was because she had chosen it. Just as she’d set up this photo shoot.

It was one of several contracts she had taken here in New York City for a Mexican drug cartel. Fashion photography provided her with a cover for the way she made her real income.

Alex snapped photo after photo, watching the flash of the explosion through her lens almost a second before the sound of it reached her ears. It was a low, hollow thump. But first she saw the windows blow out and a burst of flame shoot into the air. It was spectacular.

She heard Chaz say, “Damn, did you see that?” A smile crept across her face again. An explosion like that would solve a lot of problems. No loose ends. In her business, there was nothing worse than a loose end.

Chapter 7

Things were hazy, as if I’d walked into fog. I felt like I was in a tunnel, with sound echoing everywhere. Then I heard voices. They sounded distant, until I saw a face right above me.

It was a uniformed patrol officer, a woman with short brown hair. She was helping someone near me, a paramedic. I couldn’t follow what they were doing.

The paramedic had sweat dripping from his long nose as he looked down at me. I felt pressure on my forehead. He looked down and said something comforting, or at least I thought so.

I tried to ask about Antrole and warn them about the shooters, but when I attempted to speak, nothing came out.

The paramedic patted my chest. It looked like he said, “Relax—it will be fine.”

The young patrol officer couldn’t mask her emotions as well. She looked worried. Even scared.

Then I faded out again.

The second time I opened my eyes, things were much sharper. There was a bright light above my head, and I was lying flat on my back. I heard the sounds of normal life around me. Someone walking in a hallway. A quiet discussion in the corner. Nothing frightening, like screaming or angels singing.

Before I could say anything or ask any more questions, I saw Mary Catherine’s face above me. She looked like an angel. She was so beautiful. Immediately I felt better.

When I saw my grandfather Seamus, I knew I was still alive. He was too mean to die. He was in the official uniform of the Catholic Church. As a priest at Holy Name, he had access to any hospital in the city.

I didn’t like the look of concern on Mary Catherine’s face. I knew I was the cause of it, and that was the last thing I wanted to do to the woman I loved.

I took a breath and tried my voice. It cracked, but I said, “How is Antrole?”

I knew the answer, but I had to ask anyway. I saw the hand grenade and felt the blast. I remembered his collar tearing away and the feeling of losing him down a well.

Mary Catherine shook her head and leaned away from me.

Seamus stepped up and said, “I’m afraid your partner was killed in the blast. The doctors say you were incredibly lucky.”

I lifted my right hand and flexed, just to make sure I could. I wiggled my toes and felt the blanket on them.

Seamus said, “Everything’s there—don’t worry. You have a concussion, a bunch of stitches in your head, a broken finger on your left hand. They want to look at your back and spine more closely tomorrow.”

Suddenly I felt the pain in my left hand when I tried to move my index finger. My back was sore, but I didn’t say anything.

Mary Catherine took my hand and kissed me on the forehead. I had so many painkillers running through me that I barely felt her lips.

I looked up and said, “Do the kids know?”

“Yes. We knew it would be on the news. We made arrangements for the kids to be driven home. Juliana and Jane are making dinner and ensuring that everyone does their homework. There’s nothing you need to worry about.”

But that’s what I did. I was a father. I worried.

Then I remembered Juliana’s phone call. “What was Juliana’s big news? Please tell me it has nothing to do with a wedding dress or falling in love with a boy across the country.”

Mary Catherine gave me a smile. That’s what I needed. “No, nothing like that. My guess is that Jane will be the first one to give us that kind of news.”

“Please don’t tell me she’s decided not to go to college and wants to travel the world alone.”

Seamus said, “Don’t be an ass. That girl is saddled with your practical nature. She has big news, and you’re going to be happy no matter what it is. Your job is to just be proud.”

“I’m always proud, but I can be worried, too. I’m a father.”

“And I’m your grandfather, and I never worried that much about you.”

It didn’t matter how old I got—my grandfather still treated me like I was an eighth grader. And somehow, though I would not admit it openly, I liked it.

Mary Catherine indulged me. “Juliana landed a TV role. It’s a locally produced drama. She’s very excited about it, so no matter what she says, don’t ask questions about who’s producing it or what she’s expected to do. Ease into it a little bit. It is a legit production company, even if it’s not very big.”

I supported my children in everything they did. I also tended to get involved in everything they did. This was no different. I looked up at Mary Catherine and said, “I’m happy for her and can’t wait to see her on set.”

Chapter 8

After I talked to Mary Catherine and Seamus, Harry Grissom came into the room. The lanky lieutenant looked like he could’ve been a gunfighter in the Old West. His weather-beaten face gave no hint that he’d worked in New York City for the past twenty-five years, though his Brooklyn accent did. His droopy mustache hid a knife scar only longtime colleagues knew about.

I knew his presence meant that he was worried about me, but like the professional he was, he got right to the important questions.

“Who gave you the tip?”

I shook my head. “Antrole took the call.”

“Why didn’t you call for backup?”

I shrugged. What was I going to do? Throw my late partner under the bus? Finally I said, “It didn’t seem like a great tip at the time. You know how it is.”

Thank God he’d worked the street and really did know how things happened, what good cops had to do just to make a case. If you went by the book on everything, nothing would get done.

Harry shook his head. “This whole thing’s screwed up. Your suspect, Emmanuel Diaz, was dead hours before you got there. Two of the shooters are dead, and one is in the ICU with a couple of bullet wounds and shrapnel from the grenade.”

“So it was an ambush?”

“We’re not sure. Who knows what went on? You might have interrupted a rip-off, and they were searching the apartment. To be on the safe side, the NYPD is not releasing any details about you or Antrole. The hospital staff know to keep things quiet.”

“I like the sound of that.”

“It might keep the media circus away from you for a few days.”

Then the swinging door to my room opened, and I had a quick peek at an attractive young woman with a baby in her arms, holding the hand of a little boy in the hallway. I recognized Antrole Martens’s wife, a Wall Street banker, and their two young children from photos on his desk.

Antrole’s world revolved around his family. It hurt to know what they were going through right now.

I wanted to call out to her, but the door closed. All I could do was lie there in silence.

Chapter 9

Alex Martinez was back in her comfortable hotel room after a quick drink with the crew and models from the shoot to show them how happy she was with their work. The drink also provided cover if anyone was to ask questions about the shooting that occurred just down the street.

She had gently fended off an awkward invitation from Chaz, the model, to come back to his loft in SoHo, as he downplayed the fact that he had two roommates in a tiny apartment. But Alex had far too much on her mind to be able to concentrate and enjoy an evening with an underwear model. He was a beautiful young man, but not that beautiful.

Now she sat on the edge of the bed reviewing the photos she’d taken earlier while the big flat-screen TV bolted into the wall played the local news. She had dozens of shots of underwear models, plenty of suitable material for her client. But she was more interested in the photos she took of the building where the explosion occurred. The shots of the explosion coming from the building on 161st Street were remarkable.


On Sale
Jul 16, 2019
Page Count
432 pages

James Patterson

About the Author

James Patterson is the world’s bestselling author, best known for his many enduring fictional characters and series, including Alex Cross, the Women’s Murder Club, Michael Bennett, Maximum Ride, Middle School, I Funny, and Jacky Ha-Ha. Patterson’s writing career is characterized by a single mission: to prove to everyone, from children to adults, that there is no such thing as a person who “doesn’t like to read,” only people who haven’t found the right book. He’s given over a million books to schoolkids and over forty million dollars to support education, and endowed over five thousand college scholarships for teachers. He writes full-time and lives in Florida with his family.

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