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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 4

NEW-AGENT TRAINING at the FBI Academy in Quantico, sometimes called "Club Fed," was turning out to be a challenging, arduous, and tense program. For the most part, I liked it, and I was making an effort to keep any skepticism down. But I had entered the Bureau with a reputation for catching pattern killers, and I already had the nickname Dragonslayer. So irony and skepticism might soon be a problem.

Training had begun six weeks before, on a Monday morning, with a crew-cut broad-shouldered SSA, or supervisory special agent, Dr. Kenneth Horowitz, standing in front of our class trying to tell a joke: "The three biggest lies in the world are: 'All I want is a kiss,' 'The check is in the mail,' and 'I'm with the FBI and I'm only here to help you.'" Everybody in the class laughed, maybe because the joke was so ordinary, but at least Horowitz had tried his best, and maybe that was the point.

FBI director Ron Burns had set it up so that my training period would last for only eight weeks. He'd made other allowances for me as well. The maximum age for entrance into the FBI was thirty-seven years old. I was forty-two. Burns had the age requirement waived for me and also voiced his opinion that it was discriminatory and needed to be changed. The more I saw of Ron Burns, the more I sensed that he was something of a rebel, maybe because he was an ex-Philadelphia street cop himself. He had brought me into the FBI as a GS13, the highest I could go as a street agent. I'd also been promised assignments as a consultant, which meant a better salary. Burns had wanted me in the Bureau, and he got me. He said that I could have any reasonable resources I needed to get the job done. I hadn't discussed it with him yet, but I thought I might want two detectives from the Washington PD - John Sampson and Jerome Thurman.

The only thing Burns had been quiet about was my class supervisor at Quantico, a senior agent named Gordon Nooney. Nooney ran Agent Training. He had been a profiler before that, and prior to becoming an FBI agent, had been a prison psychologist in New Hampshire. I was finding him to be a bean counter at best.

That morning, Nooney was standing there waiting when I arrived for my class in abnormal psych, an hour and fifty minutes on understanding psychopathic behavior, something I hadn't been able to do in nearly fifteen years with the D.C. police force.

There was gunfire in the air, probably from the nearby Marine base. "How was traffic from D.C.?" Nooney asked. I didn't miss the barb behind the question: I was permitted to go home nights, while the other agents-in-training slept at Quantico.

"No problem," I said. "Forty-five minutes in moving traffic on Ninety-five. I left plenty of extra time."

"The Bureau isn't known for breaking rules for individuals," Nooney said. Then he offered a tight, thin smile that was awfully close to a frown. "Of course, you're Alex Cross."

"I appreciate it," I said. I left it at that. "I just hope it's worth the trouble," Nooney mumbled as he walked off in the direction of Admin. I shook my head and went into class, which was held in a tiered symposium-style room.

Dr. Horowitz's lesson this day was interesting to me. It concentrated on the work of Professor Robert Hare, who'd done original research on psychopaths by using brain scans. According to Hare's studies, when healthy people are shown "neutral" and "emotional" words, they respond acutely to emotional words, such as cancer or death. Psychopaths register the words equally. A sentence like "I love you" means nothing more to a psychopath than "I'll have some coffee." Maybe less. According to Hare's analysis of data, attempts to reform psychopaths only make them more manipulative. It certainly was a point of view.

Even though I was familiar with some of the material, I found myself jotting down Hare's "characteristics" of psychopathic personality and behavior. There were forty of them. As I wrote them down, I found myself agreeing that most rang true.


Glibness and superficial charm
Need for constant stimulation / prone to boredom
Lack of any remorse or guilt
Shallow emotional response
Complete lack of empathy...

I was remembering two psychopaths in particular: Gary Soneji and Kyle Craig. I wondered how many of the forty "characteristics" the two of them shared, and started putting G.S. and K.C. next to the appropriate ones.

Then I felt a tap on my shoulder. I turned away from Dr. Horowitz.

"Senior Agent Nooney needs to see you right now in his office," said an executive assistant, who then walked away with the full confidence that I would be right on his heels. I was. I was in the FBI now.

Copyright © 2004 by James Patterson

Read by Peter J. Fernandez & Denis O'Hare
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