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Big Bad Wolf

Alex Cross's first case since joining the FBI has his new colleagues stymied. Across the country, beautiful women are being kidnapped-to be bought and sold as slaves. Behind this depraved scheme stands a shadowy figure known only as The Wolf, a master criminal who has brought a new reign of terror to organized crime. With Alex's personal life in chaos because of his ex-fiancée's return and with the FBI's caution testing his patience, Alex has to go out on his own. For to stalk a ruthless predator without a name or a face, Alex Cross must become a lone wolf himself...

Chapter 2

LIZZIE CONNOLLY FELT LIGHT-HEADED and she wondered if her quirky blood sugar was acting up again.

She made a mental note to pick up Trudie Styler's cookbook - she kind of admired Trudie, who was cofounder of the Rainforest Foundation as well as Sting's wife. She seriously doubted she would get through this day with her head still screwed on straight, not twisted around like the poor little girl in The Exorcist. Linda Blair, wasn't that the actress's name? Lizzie was pretty sure it was. Oh, who cared? What difference did trivia make?

What a merry-go-round today was going to be. First, it was Gwynnie's birthday, and the party for twenty-one of her closest school buddies, eleven girls, ten boys, was scheduled for one o'clock at the house. Lizzie had rented a bouncy house, and she had already prepared lunch for the children, not to mention for their moms or nannies. Lizzie had even rented a Mister Softee ice-cream truck for three hours. But you never knew what to expect at these birthday gigs - other than laughter, tears, thrills, and spills.

After the birthday bash, Brigid had swimming lessons, and Merry had a trip to the dentist scheduled. Brendan, her husband of fourteen years, had left her a "short list" of his current needs. Of course everything was needed A.S.A.P.S. which meant as soon as possible, sweetheart.

After she picked up a T-shirt with rhinestones for Gwynnie at Gapkids, all she had left to buy was Brendan's replacement dop kit. Oh, yeah, and her hair appointment. And ten minutes with her savior at Parisian, Gina Sabellico.

She kept her cool through the final stages - never let them see you sweat - then she hurried to her new Mercedes 320 station wagon, which was safely tucked in a corner on the P3 level of the underground garage at Phipps. No time for her favorite rooibos tea at Teavana.

Hardly anybody was in the garage on a Monday morning, but she nearly bumped into a man with long dark hair. Lizzie smiled automatically at him, revealing perfect, recently whitened and brightened teeth, warmth, and sexiness - even when she didn't want to show it.

She wasn't really paying attention to anyone - thinking ahead to the fast-approaching birthday party - when a woman she passed suddenly grabbed her around the chest as if Lizzie were a running back for the Atlanta Falcons football team trying to pass through the "line of spinach," as her daughter Gwynne had once called it. The woman's grip was like a vise - she was strong as hell.

"What are you doing? Are you crazy?" Lizzie finally screamed her loudest, squirmed her hardest, dropped her shopping bags, heard something break. "Hey! Somebody, help! Get off of me!"

Then a second assailant, the BMW sweatshirt guy, grabbed her legs and held on tight, hurt her, actually, as he brought her down onto the filthy, greasy parking-lot concrete along with the woman. "Don't kick me, bitch!" he yelled in her face. "Don't you fucking dare kick me."

But Lizzie didn't stop kicking - or screaming either. "Help me. Somebody, help! Somebody, please!"

Then both of them lifted her up in the air as if she weighed next to nothing. The man mumbled something to the woman. Not English. Middle European, maybe. Lizzie had a housekeeper from Slovakia. Was there a connection?

The woman attacker gripped her around the chest with one arm and used her free hand to push aside tennis and golf stuff, hurriedly clearing a space in the back of the station wagon.

Then Lizzie was roughly shoved inside her own car. A gauzy, foul-smelling cloth was pushed hard against her nose and mouth, and held there so tightly it hurt her teeth. She tasted blood. First blood, she thought. My blood. Adrenaline surged through her body, and she began fighting back again with all her strength. Punching and kicking. She felt like a captured animal striking out for its freedom.

"Easy," the man said. "Easy-peasy-Japanesy . . . Elizabeth Connolly."

Elizabeth Connolly? They know me? How? Why? What is going on here?

"You're a very sexy mom," said the man. "I see why the Wolf likes you."

Wolf? Who's the Wolf? What was happening to her? Who did she know named Wolf?

Then the thick, acrid fumes from the cloth overpowered Lizzie and she went lights out. She was driven away in the back of her station wagon.

But only across the street to the Lenox Square Mall - where Lizzie Connolly was transferred into a blue Dodge van that then sped away. Purchase complete.

Copyright © 2004 by James Patterson

Read by Peter J. Fernandez & Denis O'Hare
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