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Major cities around the globe are threatened with total destruction. The Wolf has proven he can do it; the only question is, can anyone stop him in time? Surveillance film of the blast reveals the presence of another of Alex Cross’ most dangerous enemies, the ruthless assassin known as the Weasel.
World leaders have just four days to prevent an unimaginable cataclysm. Joining forces with Scotland Yard and Interpol, Alex fights his way through a torrent of false leads, impersonators, and foreign agents before he gets close to the heart of the crimes. Racing down the hairpin turns of the Riviera in the most unforgettable finale James Patterson has ever written, Alex Cross confronts the truth of the Wolf’s identity, a revelation that even Cross himself may be unable to survive.
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A Preview of Mary, Mary
A Preview of Cross Justice
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Books by James Patterson
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COLONEL GEOFFREY SHAFER loved his new life in Salvador, Brazil's third-largest city and some would say its most intriguing. It was definitely the most fun.
He had rented a plush six-bedroom villa directly across from Guarajuba Beach, where he spent his days drinking sweet caipirinhas and ice-cold Brahma beers, or sometimes playing tennis at the club. At night, Colonel Shafer—the psychopathic killer better known as the Weasel—was up to his old tricks, hunting on the dark, narrow, winding streets of the Old City. He had lost count of his kills in Brazil, and nobody in Salvador seemed to care, or even keep count. There hadn't been a single newspaper story about the disappearance of young prostitutes. Not one. Maybe it was true what they said of the people here—when they weren't actually partying, they were already rehearsing for the next one.
At a few ticks past two in the morning, Shafer returned to the villa with a young and beautiful streetwalker who called herself Maria. What a gorgeous face the girl had, and a stunning brown body, especially for someone so young. Maria said she was only thirteen.
The Weasel picked a fat banana from one of several plants in his yard. At this time of year he had his choice of coconut, guava, mango, and pinha, which was sugar apple. As he plucked the fresh fruit he had the thought that there was always something ripe for the taking in Salvador. It was paradise. Or maybe it's hell and I'm the Devil, Shafer thought, and chuckled to himself.
"For you, Maria," he said, handing her the banana. "We'll put it to good use."
The girl smiled knowingly, and the Weasel noticed her eyes—what perfect brown eyes. And all mine now—eyes, lips, breasts.
Just then, he spotted a small Brazilian monkey called a mico trying to work its way through a window screen and into his house. "Get out of here, you thieving little bastard!" he yelled. "G'wan! Beat it!"
There came a quick movement from out of the bushes, then three men jumped him. The police, he was certain, probably Americans. Alex Cross?
The cops were all over him, powerful arms and legs everywhere. He was struck down by a bat, or a lead pipe, yanked back up by his full head of hair, then beaten unconscious.
"We caught him. We caught the Weasel, first try. That wasn't very hard," said one of the men. "Bring him inside."
Then he looked at the beautiful young girl, who was clearly afraid, rightly so. "You did a good job, Maria. You brought him to us." He turned to one of his men. "Kill her."
A single gunshot ruptured the silence in the front yard. No one seemed to notice or care in Salvador.
THE WEASEL JUST WANTED to die now. He was hanging upside down from the ceiling of his own master bedroom. The room had mirrors everywhere, and he could see himself in several of the reflections.
He looked like death. He was naked, bruised and bleeding all over. His hands were tightly cuffed behind his back, his ankles bound together, cutting off the circulation. Blood was rushing to his head.
Hanging beside him was the young girl, Maria, but she had been dead for several hours, maybe as much as a day, judging by the terrible smell. Her brown eyes were turned his way, but they stared right through him.
The leader of his captors, bearded, always squeezing a black ball in one hand, squatted down so that he was only a foot or so from Shafer's face. He spoke softly, a whisper.
"What we did with some prisoners when I was active—we would sit them down, rather politely, peacefully, and then nail their fucking tongues to a table. That's absolutely true, my weaselly friend. You know what else? Simply plucking hairs… from the nostrils… the chest… stomach… genitals… it's more than a little bothersome, no? Ouch," he said as he plucked hairs from Shafer's naked body.
"But I'll tell you the worst torture, in my opinion, anyway. Worse than what you would have done to poor Maria. You grab the prisoner by both shoulders and shake violently until he convulses. You literally rattle his brain, the sensitive organ itself. He feels as if his head will fly off. His body is on fire. I'm not exaggerating.
"Here, let me show you what I mean."
The terrible, unimaginably violent shaking—while Geoffrey Shafer hung upside down—went on for nearly an hour.
Finally he was cut down. "Who are you? What do you want from me?" he screamed.
The head captor shrugged. "You're a tough bastard, but always remember, I found you. And I'll find you again if I need to. Do you understand?"
Geoffrey Shafer could barely focus his eyes, but he looked up to where he thought the captor's voice had come from. He whispered, "What… do you… want? Please?"
The bearded man's face bent close to his. He seemed almost to smile. "I have a job, a most incredible job for you. Believe me, you were born for this."
"Who are you?" the Weasel whispered again through badly chapped and bleeding lips. It was a question he'd asked a hundred times during the torture.
"I am the Wolf," said the bearded man. "Perhaps you've heard of me."
ON THE SUNNY, blue-skied afternoon when one of them would die unexpectedly, needlessly, Frances and Dougie Puslowski were hanging sheets and pillowcases and the kids' play clothes out to dry in the noonday sun.
Suddenly U.S. Army soldiers began to arrive at their mobile-home park, Azure Views, in Sunrise Valley, Nevada. Lots of soldiers. A full convoy of U.S. jeeps and trucks came bouncing up the dirt road they lived on, and stopped abruptly. Troops poured out of the vehicles. The soldiers were heavily armed. They definitely meant business.
"What in the name of sweet Jesus is going on?" asked Dougie, who was currently on disability from the Cortey Mine outside Wells and was still trying to get used to the domestic scene. But Dougie knew that he was failing pretty badly. He was almost always depressed, always grumpy and mean-spirited, and always short with poor Frances and the kids.
Dougie noticed that the soldier boys and girls climbing out of their trucks were outfitted in battle dress uniform: leather boots, camouflage pants, olive T-shirts—the whole kit and caboodle, as if this were Iraq and not the ass end of Nevada. They carried M-16 rifles and ran toward the closest trailers with muzzles raised. Some of the soldiers even looked scared themselves.
The desert wind was blowing pretty good, and their voices carried all the way to the Puslowskis' clothesline. Frances and Dougie clearly heard "We're evacuating the town! This is an emergency situation. Everyone has to leave their houses now! Now, people!"
Frances Puslowski had the presence of mind to notice that all the soldiers were pretty much saying the same thing, as if they had rehearsed it, and that their tight, solemn faces sure showed that they wouldn't take no for an answer. The Puslowskis' three-hundred-odd neighbors—some of them very odd—were already leaving their mobile homes, complaining about it but definitely doing as they were told.
The next-door neighbor, Delta Shore, ran over to Frances. "What's happening, hon? Why are all these soldiers here? My good God Almighty! Can you believe it? They must be from Nellis or Fallon or someplace. I'm a little scared, Frances. You scared, hon?"
The clothespin in Frances's mouth finally dropped to the ground as she spoke to Delta. "They say that they're evacuating us. I've got to get the girls."
Then Frances ran inside the mobile home, and at 240-some pounds, she had believed her sprinting, or even jogging, days were far behind her.
"Madison, Brett, c'mere, you two. Nothin' to be scared of. We just have to leave for a while! It'll be fun. Like a movie. Get a move on, you two!"
The girls, ages two and four, appeared from the small bedroom where they'd been watching Rolie Polie Olie on the Disney Channel. Madison, the oldest, offered her usual "Why? Why do we have to? I don't want to. I won't. We're too busy, Momma."
Frances grabbed her cell phone off the kitchen counter—and then the next really strange thing happened. She tried to get a line to the police, but there was nothing except loud static. Now that had never happened before, not that kind of annoying, buzzy noise she was hearing. Was some kind of invasion going down? Something nuclear, maybe?
"Damn it!" she snapped at the buzzing cell phone, and almost started to cry. "What is going on here?"
"You said a bad word!" Brett squeaked, but she also laughed at her mother. She kind of liked bad words. It was as if her mother had made a mistake, and she loved it when adults made mistakes.
"Get Mrs. Summerkin and Oink," Frances told the girls, who would not leave the house without their two favorite lovies, not even if the infernal plague of Egypt had come to town. Frances prayed that it hadn't—but what had? Why was the U.S. Army swarming all over the place, waving scary guns in people's faces?
She could hear her frightened neighbors outside, verbalizing the very thoughts racing around in her head: "What's happened?" "Who says we have to leave?" "Tell us why!" "Over my dead body, soldier! You hear me, now?"
That last voice was Dougie's! Now what was he up to?
"Dougie, come back in the house!" Frances yelled. "Help me with these girls! Dougie, I need you in here."
There was a gunshot outside! A loud, lightning-bolt crack exploded from one of the rifles.
Frances ran to the screen door—here she was, running again—and saw two U.S. Army soldiers standing over Dougie's body.
Oh my God, Dougie isn't moving. Oh my God, oh my God! The soldiers had shot him down like a rabid dog. For nothing! Frances started to shiver and shake, then threw up lunch.
Her girls screeched, "Yuk, Mommy! Mommy, yuk! You threw up all over the kitchen!"
Then suddenly a soldier with a couple of days' facial growth on his chin kicked open the screen door and he was right in her face and he was screaming, "Get out of this trailer! Now! Unless you want to die, too."
The soldier had the business end of a gun pointed right at Frances. "I'm not kidding, lady," he said. "Tell the truth, I'd just as soon shoot you as talk to you."
THE JOB—the operation, the mission—was to wipe out an entire American town. In broad daylight.
It was some eerie, psycho gig. Dawn of the Dead, either version, would be mild compared to this. Sunrise Valley, Nevada; population, 315 brave souls. Soon to be population, 0. Who was going to believe it? Well, hell, everybody would in less than about three minutes.
None of the men on board the small plane knew why the town was being targeted for extinction, or anything else about the strange mission, except that it paid extremely well, and all the money had been delivered to them up front. Hell, they didn't even know one another's names. All they had been told was their individual tasks for the mission. Just their little piece of the puzzle. That's what it was called—their piece.
Michael Costa from Los Angeles was the munitions expert on board and he'd been instructed to make a "bootleg fuel-air bomb with some real firepower."
Okay, he could do that easily enough.
His working model was the BLU-96, often called a Daisy Cutter, which graphically described the end result. Costa knew that the bomb had originally been designed to clear away mine fields, as well as jungles and forests for military landing zones. Then some really crazy, sick dude had figured out that the Daisy Cutter could wipe out people as easily as it could trees and boulders.
So now here he was inside an old, beat-to-hell cargo plane flying over the Tuscarora Mountain range toward Sunrise Valley, Nevada, and they were very close to T, for target.
He and his new best friends were assembling the bomb right there on the plane. They even had a diagram showing how to do it, as if they were idiots. Assembling Fuel-Air Bombs for Dummies.
The actual BLU-96 was a tightly controlled military weapon and relatively hard to obtain, Costa knew. Unfortunately for everybody who lived, loved, ate, slept, and shit in Sunrise Valley, Daisy Cutters could also be assembled at home out of readily obtainable ingredients. Costa had purchased a thousand-gallon supplemental fuel bladder, then filled it with high-octane gas, fitted a dispersing device, and inserted dynamite sticks as an initiator. Next, he made a motion brake and trigger assembly using a parachutist's altitude-deployment device for parts. Simple stuff like that.
Then, as he'd told the others on board the cargo plane, "You fly over the target. You push the bomb out the payload door. You run like your pants are on fire and there's an ocean up ahead. Trust me, the Daisy Cutter will leave nothing but scorched earth below. Sunrise Valley will be a burn mark in the desert. A memory. Just you watch."
"EASY DOES IT, gentlemen. No one is to be hurt. Not this time."
Nearly eight hundred miles away, the Wolf was watching in live time what was happening in the desert. What a flick! There were four cameras on the ground at Sunrise Valley that were pumping video footage to four monitors in the house in the Bel Air section of Los Angeles, where he was staying. For the moment, anyway.
He watched closely as the inhabitants of the mobile-home park were escorted by army personnel into waiting transport trucks. The clarity of the footage was very good. He could see the patches on the soldiers' arms: NEVADA ARMY GUARD UNIT 72ND.
Suddenly he spoke out loud, "Shit! Don't do that!" He started to squeeze the black handball rapidly in his fist, a habit when he was anxious or angry, or both.
One of the male civilians had pulled a gun and had it pointed at a soldier. Incredibly dumb mistake!
"You imbecile!" the Wolf shouted at the screen.
An instant later the man with the handgun was dead, facedown in the desert dust, which actually made it easier to get the other retards from Sunrise Valley into the transport trucks. Should have been part of the plan in the first place, the Wolf thought. But it hadn't been, so now it was a small problem.
Then one of the handheld cameras focused on a small cargo plane as it approached the town and circled overhead. This was just gorgeous to behold. The handheld was obviously on board one of the army trucks, which were, he hoped, speeding out of range.
It was amazing footage—black and white, which somehow made it even more powerful. Black and white was more realistic, no? Yes—absolutely.
The handheld was steady on the plane as it glided in over the town.
"Angels of death," he whispered. "Beautiful image. I'm such an artist."
It took two of them to push the bladder of gas out the payload door. Then the pilot banked a hard left, fire walled the engines, and climbed out of there as fast as he could. That was his job, his piece of the puzzle, and he'd done it very well. "You get to live," the Wolf spoke to the video again.
The camera was on a wide angle now and captured the bomb as it slowly plummeted toward the town. Stunning footage. Scary as hell, too, even for him to see. At approximately a hundred feet from the ground, the bomb detonated. "Ka-fucking-boom!" said the Wolf. It just came out of his mouth. Usually he wasn't this emotional about anything.
As he watched—couldn't take his eyes away—the Daisy Cutter leveled everything within five hundred yards of the drop site. It also had the capacity to kill everything within an area that large, which it did. This was utter devastation. Up to ten miles away windows blew out of buildings. The ground and buildings shook in Elko, Nevada, about thirty-five miles away. The explosion was heard in the next state.
And actually, much farther away than that. Right there in Los Angeles, for instance. Because tiny Sunrise Valley, Nevada, was just a test run.
"This is just a warm-up," said the Wolf. "Just the beginning of something great. My masterpiece. My payback."
WHEN EVERYTHING STARTED, I was blessedly out of the loop, on a four-day vacation to the West Coast, my first in over a year. First stop: Seattle, Washington.
Seattle is a beautiful, lively city that—in my opinion, anyway—nicely balances the funky old and the cyber new, with possibly a tip of a Microsoft cap to the future side of things. Under ordinary circumstances I would have looked forward to a visit there.
These were kind of shaky times, though, and I had only to look down at the small boy tightly holding on to my hand as we crossed Wallingford Avenue North to remember why.
I had only to listen to my heart.
The boy was my son Alex, and I was seeing him for the first time in four months. He and his mother lived in Seattle now. I lived in Washington, D.C., where I was an FBI agent. Alex's mom and I were involved in a "friendly" custody struggle over our son, at least it was evolving that way after a very stormy couple of encounters.
"You having fun?" I asked little Alex, who still carried around Moo, a spotted black-and-white cow that had been his favorite toy when he lived with me in Washington. He was almost three, but already a smooth talker and even smoother operator. God, I loved this little guy. His mother believed that he was a gifted child—high intelligence, high creativity—and since Christine was an elementary-school teacher, and an excellent one, she would probably know.
Christine's place was in the Wallingford area of Seattle, and because it's a pleasant walking neighborhood, Alex and I had decided to stay close to home. We started out playing in the backyard, which was bordered with Douglas firs and had plenty of room, not to mention a view of the Cascade Mountains.
I took several pictures of the Boy, per my instructions from Nana Mama. Alex wanted me to see his mother's vegetable garden, and as I expected, it was very well done, full of tomatoes, lettuce, and squash. The grass was neatly mown. Pots of rosemary and mint covered the kitchen windowsills. I took more pictures of Alex.
After our tour of the yard, we walked over to the Wallingford Playfield and had a catch-and-batting session, then it was the zoo, and then another hand-holding walk along nearby Green Lake. Alex was pumped up about the upcoming Seafair Kiddies Parade and didn't understand why I couldn't stay for it. I knew what was coming next and I tried to brace myself for it.
"Why do you always have to go away?" he asked, and I didn't have a good answer. Just a sudden, terrible ache in my chest that was all too familiar. I want to be with you every minute of every day, buddy, I wanted to say.
"I just do, buddy," I said. "But I'll be back soon. I promise. You know I keep my promises."
"Is it because you're a policeman?" he asked. "Why you have to go away?"
"Yes. Partly. That's my job. I have to make money to buy VCRs and Pop-Tarts."
"Why don't you get another job?" asked Alex.
"I'll think about it," I told him. Not a lie. I would. I had been thinking about my police career a lot lately. I'd even talked to my doctor about it, my head doctor.
Finally, about 2:30, we made our way back to his house, which is a restored Victorian, painted deep blue with white trim, in excellent condition. It's cozy and light and, I must admit, a nice place to grow up in—as is Seattle.
Little Alex even has a view of the Cascades from his room. What more could a boy ask for?
Maybe a father who is around more than once every few months? How about that?
Christine was waiting on the porch, and she welcomed us back warmly. This was such a switch from our last face-to-face in Washington. Could I trust Christine? I guess I had to.
Alex and I had a final couple of hugs on the sidewalk. I took a few more snapshots for Nana and the kids.
Then he and Christine disappeared inside, and I was on the outside, alone, walking back to my rental car with my hands stuffed deep in my pockets, wondering what it was all about, missing my small son already, missing him badly, wondering if it would always be as heartbreaking as this, knowing that it would be.
AFTER THE VISIT with Alex in Seattle I took a flight down to San Francisco to spend some time with Homicide Inspector Jamilla Hughes. She and I had been seeing each other for about a year. I missed Jam and needed to be with her. She was good at making things all right.
Most of the way I listened to the fine vocals of Erykah Badu, then Calvin Richardson. They were good at making things right, too. Better, anyway.
As the plane got close to San Francisco we were treated to a surprisingly clear view of the Golden Gate Bridge and the city's skyline. I spotted the Embarcadero and the Transamerica Building, and then I just let the scene wash over me. I couldn't wait to see Jam. We'd been close ever since we worked a murder investigation together. The only problem: the two of us lived on different coasts. We liked our respective cities, and our jobs, and hadn't figured out where to go with that yet.
On the other hand, we definitely enjoyed being together, and I could see the joy on Jamilla's face as I spotted her near an exit at busy San Francisco International Airport. She was in front of a North Beach Deli, grinning, clapping her hands over her head, then jumping up and down. She has that kind of spirit and can get away with it.
I smiled and felt better as soon as I saw her. She always has that effect on me. She was wearing a buttery soft leather car coat, light blue T, and black jeans and looked as though she'd come straight from work. But she looked good, really good.
She'd put on lipstick—and perfume, I discovered as I took her into my arms. "Oh yes," I said. "I missed you."
"Then hold me, hug me, kiss me," she said. "How was your boy? How was Alex?"
"He's getting big, smarter, funnier. He's pretty great. I love that little guy. I miss him already, Jamilla."
"I know you do. I know you do, baby. Give me that hug."
I picked Jam up off her feet and spun her around. She's five-nine and solid, and I love holding her in my arms. I noticed a few people watching us, and most were smiling. How could they not?
Then two of the spectators, a man and a woman in dark suits, walked up to us. Now what is this?
The woman held up her badge for me to see: FBI.
Oh no. No. Don't do this to me.
I GROANED and gently set down Jamilla, as if we had been doing something wrong instead of something very right. All the good feelings inside me evaporated in a hurry. Just like that. Wham, bam! I needed a break—and this wasn't going to be it.
"I'm Agent Jean Matthews; this is Agent John Thompson," the woman said, gesturing to a thirty-something blond guy munching a Ghirardelli chocolate bar. "We hate to interrupt, to intrude, but we were sent out here to meet your plane. You're Alex Cross, sir?" she said, finally thinking to check.
"I'm Alex Cross. This is Inspector Hughes from the SFPD. You can talk in front of her," I said.
Agent Matthews shook her head. "No, sir, I'm afraid I can't."
Jamilla patted my arm. "It's okay." She walked away, leaving me with the two agents, which was the opposite of what I wanted to happen. I wanted them to walk away—far, far away.
"What's this about?" I asked Agent Matthews. I already knew it was something bad, which was an ongoing problem with my current job. FBI Director Burns had my schedule and itinerary at all times, even when I was off duty, which effectively meant that I was never off duty.
"As I said, sir, we were told to meet you. Then to put you right on a plane to Nevada. There's an emergency out there. A small town was bombed. Well, the town was blown off the map. The director wants you on the scene, like, an hour ago. It's a terrible disaster."
I was shaking my head, feeling incredible disappointment and frustration as I walked over to where Jamilla stood. I felt as if there was a hole in the center of my chest. "There's been a bombing in Nevada. They say it's on the news. I have to go out there," I told her. "I'll try to get back as soon as I can. I'm sorry. You have no idea how sorry I am."
The look on her face said it all. "I understand," she said. "Of course I understand. You have to go. Come back if you can."
I tried to hug her, but Jamilla backed away, finally giving me a small, sad wave. Then she turned and left without saying another word, and I think I knew that I had just lost her, too.
I WAS ON THE MOVE, but the whole scene felt more than frustrating—it was actually surreal. I flew by private jet from San Francisco to a small town in Nevada, and from there caught a ride in an FBI helicopter to what had once been Sunrise Valley.
I was trying not to think about little Alex, trying not to think about Jamilla, but so far it wasn't working. Maybe once I got to the bomb site? Once I was there in the action, in the middle of the shit.
I could tell by the way the local agents deferred to, and fussed around, me that my reputation, or the fact that I worked out of Washington, was making them nervous and edgy. Director Burns had made it clear that I was one of the Bureau's troubleshooters, that I was his
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