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Violets Are Blue
Read by Ruben Santiago-Hudson
Read by Michael Hall
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Alex Cross has never believed in vampires. But when two joggers are found slain in a manner that suggests a macabre ritual, he has to reconsider. Someone believes in vampires enough to have committed a series of bizarre murders that appear to be the work of one. Local police are horrified, and even the FBI is baffled.
Cross takes on the case and plunges into a netherworld of secret clubs and role-players, a world full of poseurs and playactors-and someone demented enough to have crossed the line from dark ritual to real blood. At the same time, a lethal super-criminal from Cross’s past known as the Mastermind is stalking him, taunting him, and threatening everything he holds dear. Cross has never been closer to defeat, or in greater danger. In a shocking conclusion, Alex Cross must survive a deadly confrontation-only to discover at last the awful secret of the Mastermind.
Table of Contents
A Preview of Four Blind Mice
A Preview of Cross Justice
About the Author
Books by James Patterson
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MY HEAD was aching, but I spent the next four hours questioning Irwin Snyder in a bare, white-washed, claustrophobic room at a jail in Charlotte. For the first hour or so, Kyle and I interrogated him together, but it didn't work out. I asked Kyle to leave the room. Snyder was shackled, so I felt safe being alone with him. I wondered how he felt.
My arm and hand were beginning to throb, but this was more important than my wounds. Irwin Snyder had known I was coming to Charlotte. How had he known? What else did he know? How was a vicious young killer in Charlotte connected to the rest of this mess?
Snyder was pale and unhealthy looking, with a scruffy goatee and sideburns. He stared at me with eyes that were dark, very active, intelligent enough.
Then he laid his head down on the Formica tabletop, and I lifted him right out of his chair by his hair. He cursed at me for a full minute. Then he demanded to see his lawyer.
"Hurts, doesn't it?" I said. "Don't make me do it again. Keep your head off the table. This isn't nap time. It isn't a game either."
He gave me the finger, then put his head back down on the table. I knew he'd been getting away with this type of shit at school and in his home for years. But not here, and not with me.
I yanked him by his greasy black hair again, even harder this time. "You don't seem to understand the King's English. You murdered your parents in cold blood. You're a killer."
"Lawyer!" he screamed. "Lawyer! Lawyer! I'm bein' tortured in here! I'm bein' beaten by a cop! Lawyer! Lawyer! I want my fuckin' lawyer!"
With my free hand I grabbed his chin. He spit on my hand. I ignored it.
"Listen to me now," I said. "Listen! Everybody else from the house is at the station in the city. You're the only one out here with me. No one can hear you. And you're not being beaten. But you are going to talk to me."
I yanked his hair again—as hard as I could without actually pulling out a clump. Snyder shrieked, but I knew I hadn't hurt him much.
"You killed your mother and your father with a claw hammer. You bit me twice. And you stink to high heaven. I don't like you, but we're going to have this talk anyway."
"Better see somebody about those bites, pig," he snarled. "You been warned."
He was still talking tough, but he cringed and pulled back when I reached for his hair again.
"How did you know I was coming to Charlotte? How did you know my name? Talk to me."
"Ask the Tiger, when you two meet. It'll happen sooner than you think."
IT BECAME clear that Irwin Snyder couldn't have committed the earlier murders. He had been out of North Carolina only once or twice in his life. Most of his contact with the outside world was over the Internet. And of course he was too young to have been involved in murders going back eleven years.
The seventeen-year-old had killed his mother and father, though. He seemed to have no remorse. The Tiger had told him to do it. That was all I had been able to get out of him. He refused to say how he had come into contact with the person or group who had such control over him.
While I was questioning Snyder, and then the others from the house, my shoulder and hand began to itch and then ache. The bites were puncture wounds, but there had been little bleeding. The bite to my shoulder was the deepest, even through my jacket, and had left prominent teeth marks, which I'd had photographed at the station.
I didn't bother going to the local emergency room in Charlotte. I was too busy. The wounds soon became extremely painful. By late morning, I had trouble making a fist. I doubted I could pull the trigger of my gun. Now you're one of us, Irwin Snyder had told me.
I wondered what group, or cell, or cult Snyder was part of. Where was the Tiger? Was it only one person? I attended a meeting with the FBI and the Charlotte police that lasted until eight that evening. The net result was that we were still nowhere near a solution. The FBI was scouring the Internet searching for messages relating to the Tiger, or any kind of tiger.
I flew back to Washington later that night and managed to sleep a little on the plane. Not nearly enough. The phone rang minutes after I stepped inside the front door of my house. What the hell?
"You're back, Dr. Cross. That's good. Welcome, welcome. I missed you. Did you enjoy Charlotte?"
I put down the phone receiver and hurried outside into the night. I didn't see anyone, no movement up or down Fifth Street, but that didn't mean he wasn't lingering near the house. How else could he know I was here?
I ran out into the street. I stared hard into the darkness. I couldn't see anyone, but maybe he could see me. Someone had definitely been watching. Someone was out there.
"I am back," I shouted. "Come and get me. Let's settle this right here and now. Let's settle it! Here I am, you bastard!" He didn't call back to me, didn't answer.
Then I heard a footstep behind me. I whirled around at the Mastermind.
"Alex, what is going on out here? When did you get home? Who are you talking to?"
It was Nana, and she looked very small, and frightened. She came up and hugged me tight.
I WOKE up in bad shape around six the next morning. There was blotchy redness and intense heat around the bites. The wounds throbbed. I noticed a nasty puslike drainage from the bite on my hand. It was swollen to nearly twice its normal size. This was not good. I was sick as a dog, and it was the last thing I needed right now.
I drove myself to the St. Anthony's Hospital ER, where I found out that I was spiking a fever. My temperature was a hundred and three.
The emergency room doctor who examined me was a tall Pakistani named Dr. Prahbu. He could have been one of the sons in the movie East Is East. He said that the most likely cause of the cellulitis was staphylococcus, which was a common bacteria found in the mouth.
"How is it that you were bitten?" he wanted to know. I suspected that he wasn't going to like my answer, but I gave it anyway. "I was subduing a vampire," I said.
"No, seriously, Detective Cross. How did you come to be bitten?" he asked a second time. "I am a serious person and this is a serious question. I need to know this."
"I am completely serious. I'm part of the team investigating vampire killers. I was bitten by a man with fangs."
"Okay, fine, Detective. Whatever you say."
I was given tests in the ER: a CBC and differential count, sedimentation rate, and a culture and sensitivity test on the drainage from the wounds. Blood cultures would be studied. I told Dr. Prahbu that I needed copies of his findings. The hospital didn't want to give them over to me, but they finally relented and faxed the results to Quantico.
I was sent home with a prescription for a drug called Keflex. I was to keep my infected arm elevated and administer Domeboro soaks every four hours.
I was too sick to do much of anything by the time I got home. I lay in bed and listened to "Elliot in the Morning" on the radio. Nana and the kids hovered around me. Nausea swept over me really bad; I couldn't eat. I couldn't sleep, couldn't concentrate on anything except the painful throbbing in my shoulder and hand. I became delirious for several hours.
Now you're one of us.
I finally fell asleep, but I woke up around one in the morning. The witching hours. I felt even worse. I was afraid the phone would ring and it would be the Mastermind.
Someone was in the room with me.
I sighed when I saw who it was.
Jannie was sitting in the chair by my bed, keeping watch over me.
"Just like you did when I was sick last year," she said. "Now sleep, Daddy. Just sleep. Rest up. And don't you dare turn into a vampire on me."
I didn't answer Jannie. I couldn't even manage a few words. I drifted off to sleep again.
NO ONE would expect this, and that was why it was so good, so excellent. The end of Alex Cross.
It was time for it to happen. Maybe it was overdue. Cross had to die.
The Mastermind was inside the Cross house, and it was as exciting and extraordinary an experience as he had imagined it would be. He'd never felt more powerful than he did standing in the dark living room at a little past three in the morning. He had won the battle between the two of them. The Mastermind had triumphed. Cross was the loser. Tomorrow, all of Washington would be mourning his death.
He could do anything—so what should he do first?
He wanted to sit and think about it. No need to rush. Where would he choose to sit? Why of course, on Cross's bench at his piano on the sunporch. Cross's favorite spot for relaxation and escape, the place he liked to play with his children, smarmy, sentimental bastard that he was.
The Mastermind was tempted to play something, perhaps a little Gershwin, to show Cross that even his command of the piano was superior. He wanted to announce himself in a dramatic fashion. This was so good, so delicious. He never wanted tonight to end.
But was it the absolute best he could do? It had to be a night he would never forget, something to savor always. A souvenir that would have great meaning to him, only to him.
There were two triangles that explained his complex relationship with Alex Cross, and he visualized them as he sat on the porch, biding his time, enjoying himself immensely. Christ, he was smiling like a damn fool. He was in his element, and he was happy, so happy.
It was such a good psychological model, so concise and clear and sound. It explained everything that was going to happen tonight. Even Dr. Cross would approve. It was the perfect dysfunctional family triangle.
Maybe he would explain it to Cross now. Just before he murdered him. He slid on plastic gloves and then plastic booties. He checked the load in his pistol. Everything was set. Then upstairs he went—the Caller, the Mastermind, Svengali, Moriarty.
He knew the Cross house very well. He didn't even need a light. He didn't make any unnecessary noise. No mistakes. No evidence or clues for the local police or the FBI to follow.
What an incredible way this was for Cross and his family to die. What a coup. What a chilling idea. The "killing order" was starting to come to him as he climbed the stairs. Yes, he was sure of it.
He walked to the end of the upstairs hallway and stood there listening before he opened the bedroom door. Not a sound. He slowly pushed on the door.
What was this? A surprise? Christ!
He didn't like surprises. He liked precision and order. He liked to be in total control.
The young daughter, Jannie, was sitting by Cross's bed, fast asleep. Watching over her father, protecting him from harm.
He watched Cross and the girl for a long moment, maybe ninety seconds. A small night-light had been left on in the room.
There were thick bandages on Cross's hand and shoulder. He was perspiring in his sleep. He was wounded, sick, not himself, not a worthy opponent. The killer sighed. He felt such disappointment, such sadness and despair.
No, no, no! This was all wrong. This wouldn't do. It was all wrong, all wrong!
He slowly closed the bedroom door, and then he quickly, silently retraced his steps back out of the Cross house. No one would know he had been there. Not even the detective himself.
As usual, no one knew anything about him. No one suspected a thing.
He was the Mastermind, after all.
I WOKE several times during the night. I thought someone was in the house at one point. I felt someone there. Nothing I could do about it, though.
Then I woke again after fourteen hours in bed, and found that I was actually feeling better. I could almost think straight again. Exhaustion still had a hold on me, though. All my joints ached. My eyesight was blurry. I could hear music playing softly in the house. Erykah Badu, one of my favorites.
There was a knock on the bedroom door, and I said, "I'm decent. Who goes there?"
Jannie pushed open the door. She was holding a red plastic tray with a breakfast of poached eggs, hot cereal, orange juice, and a mug of steaming coffee. She was smiling, obviously proud of herself. I smiled back at her. That's my girl. What a little sweetheart she was—when she wanted to be.
"I don't know if you can eat yet, Daddy. I brought you some breakfast. Just in case."
"Thank you, sweetie. I'm feeling a little better," I said. I was able to push myself up in bed, then to prop a few pillows behind me with my good hand.
Jannie carried the tray over to the bed and carefully set it on my lap. She leaned in and kissed my fuzzy cheek. "Somebody needs a shave."
"You're being so nice," I said to her.
"I am nice, Daddy," Jannie answered. "You feel good enough for a little company? We'll just watch you eat—we'll be good. No trouble. Is it okay?"
"Just what I need right now," I said.
Jannie came back with little Alex in her arms and Damon trailing behind, giving me the high sign. They climbed up on my bed and, as promised, they were very good, the best medicine around.
"You just eat your breakfast while it's hot. You're getting too skinny," Jannie teased.
"Yeah, you are," Damon agreed. "You are drawn and gaunt."
"Very good." I smiled between small bites of eggs and toast, which I hoped I could keep down. I kept running my hand over little Alex's head.
"Did somebody poison you, Daddy?" Jannie wanted to know. "What exactly happened?"
I sighed and shook my head. "I don't know, baby. It's an infection. You can get it from a human bite."
Jannie and Damon grimaced. "Nana says its septicemia. They used to call it blood poisoning." Damon contributed some scholarly research.
"Who am I to argue with Nana?" I said, and left it at that. "I'm no match for Nana Mama right now." Or maybe ever.
I looked at the puffed-up bandage and gauze covering most of my right shoulder. The skin was a sickly yellow around the bandage. "Something bad got into my blood. I'm okay now, though. I'm coming back." But I remembered what Irwin Snyder had said: You're one of us.
I WAS able to make it downstairs for dinner that night. Nana rewarded my appearance at the table with chicken, gravy, and biscuits, and a homemade apple crisp. I made an effort to eat, and I surprised myself by doing pretty well.
After dinner, I put little Alex to bed. I went back up to my room around eight-thirty, and everybody seemed to understand that I was tired, not myself yet.
I didn't sleep once I got up to my room, though. Too many bad thoughts about the murders were buzzing in my head. Right or wrong, I felt like we were getting close to something. Maybe I was just fooling myself, though.
I worked for a couple of hours on the computer, and my concentration was fine. I was pretty certain that something had to link up the cities where the murders had taken place. What was it, though? What was everybody missing? I looked at anything and everything. I studied the schedules of airplane carriers that flew into each of the cities, then bus companies, and finally railroads. It was probably just busywork, but you never know, and I had nothing better to do.
I checked out corporations that had main or branch offices in the cities and found there were a lot of matches, but it wasn't likely to get me anywhere. Federal Express, American Express, the Gap, the Limited, McDonald's, Sears, and JC Penney were just about everywhere. So what?
I had at least one travel book for each of the cities where murders had taken place, and I pored over them until it was almost midnight. Nothing came of it. My arm was throbbing again. I was starting to get a headache. The rest of the house was quiet.
Next, I checked on traveling sports teams, circuses and carnivals, author tours, rock and roll groups—and then I hit on something in the entertainment area. I had been ready to call it a night, but here was something interesting. I tried not to get excited, but my pulse quickened as I checked the West Coast information first. Then the East Coast. Bingo. Maybe.
I had found the kind of pattern that I was looking for—an entertainment act that worked winters and early spring on the West Coast, and then came east. Their tour cities and the murders were matching up for now. Jesus.
They had been touring for fifteen years.
I was almost certain I'd found some kind of connection to the killers.
Two magicians who called themselves Daniel and Charles.
The same ones Andrew Cotton and Dara Grey had seen the night they were murdered in Las Vegas.
I even knew where they were scheduled to perform next. They were probably already there.
I called Kyle Craig.
ELEVEN YEARS of unsolved murders had come down to this.
New Orleans, Louisiana.
A nightclub called Howl.
A pair of magicians named Daniel and Charles.
I still couldn't travel, so I remained in Washington. I hated not being in New Orleans. I was missing an important time, but Kyle was there. I think he wanted to make this bust himself, and I couldn't blame him. This could help make his career, no doubt about it. The case was huge.
That night in New Orleans a half dozen FBI agents circulated through the crowd that had turned out for Daniel and Charles's early performance. Howl was located in the warehouse district, off Julia Street. Usually it featured musical acts, and even tonight zydeco and blues reverberated from the mortar-and-redbrick walls. A few tourists tried to bring "geaux" cups from Bourbon Street into Howl. They were denied admission "for life."
The used Cressidas and Colts and a few sport-utility vehicles in the parking lot were a tip-off to the presence of Tulane and Loyola college students packed inside. Smoke lay thick over the noisy and restless crowd. Several in the audience looked underage, and the club had been cited for serving minors. The owners found it easier to buy off the New Orleans police than to effectively regulate the club.
Suddenly, everything went quiet. A single voice punctuated the silence. "Holy shit! Look at this."
A white tiger had walked out onto the stage, which was covered in layers of black velvet.
There was no leash on the cat. No trainer or handler was anywhere in sight. The formerly raucous audience remained silent.
The big cat lazily raised its head and roared. A girl in a hot-pink tank top screamed in the pit seating area. The cat roared again.
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