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Hope to Die

Detective Alex Cross is being stalked by a psychotic genius, forced to play the deadliest game of his career. Cross's family—his loving wife Bree, the wise and lively Nana Mama, and his precious children—have been ripped away. Terrified and desperate, Cross must give this mad man what he wants if he has any chance of saving the most important people in his life. The stakes have never been higher: What will Cross sacrifice to save the ones he loves?

Widely praised by the greatest crime and thriller writers of our time, Cross My Heart set a jaw-dropping story in motion. Hope to Die propels Alex Cross's greatest challenge to its astonishing finish, proving why Jeffery Deaver says "nobody does it better" than James Patterson.

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Part One | SIXTEEN DAYS EARLIER...

Chapter 7

PETE “MAD MAN” FRANCONES had anchored the Washington Red-skins defensive unit for fourteen years. A defensive end with outstanding speed and quickness, Francones wreaked havoc in the NFL, earning a reputation as a tireless worker and an insanely passionate player on game day.

His histrionics on the sideline during big games in college had earned him the nickname, and he’d parlayed the whole Mad Man thing into a fortune in commercial endorsements. It didn’t hurt that Francones was good-looking, smart, well-spoken, and irreverent, traits that had earned him a coveted spot commentating on Monday Night Football just the season before.

And now Francones was the fourth victim in a killing spree in one of the sleaziest places in DC? This guy?

“Didn’t he date, like, Miss Universe or something?” Sampson asked, sounding baffled as well.

“Runner-up. Miss Venezuela.”

“So why would he be in this hellhole?”

I could think of several reasons, but I got his point. Francones was the kind of guy who did not have to pay for sex. If you believed the gossip, he’d had women throwing themselves at him for —

Something puzzled me. “Where’s the hooker he was with?”

We looked under the bed. We even lifted Francones’s body to see if she’d been pinned beneath him. But she hadn’t.

“Suppressor,” Sampson said, breaking me out of my thoughts.

“Again?” I said.

“Killer must have used a suppressor on the gun. Or Francones would have heard the shots and been up and facing the door.”

I saw what he was saying, replied, “So the three in the outer room die first. Then the killer comes down the hall, finds victim number four, shoots to incapacitate, and then to kill.”

“Sounds professional.”

I nodded, studying the Mad Man’s wounds again, thinking trajectories. “He’s kneeling when he takes the first shot, and then falls forward. So again, where’s the hooker?”

“And what’s with the cleanser?”

“Maybe the killer doesn’t like the smell of death?”

“Or maybe the killer gets off on the citrus smell.”

“Definitely not a robbery,” Sampson said, gesturing toward the Breitling watch on Francones’s wrist.

I picked up the Hall of Famer’s pants, rifled the pockets, and came up with a gold money clip holding a thousand dollars in fifties, and then something I didn’t expect to find. The vial held at least three grams of white powder but was capable of holding twice that. I tasted it. My tongue and lips numbed at the bitter taste of high-grade cocaine.

Showing the vial to Sampson, I said, “I don’t remember anything to do with the Mad Man and drugs.”

“Maybe he wasn’t all naturally amped up and crazy.”

We bagged the cocaine as evidence.

“You seeing a phone?” Sampson asked.

“No,” I said. “And no car keys, either. And no third woman.”

We went through the rest of the Superior Spa. The manager’s office had been lightly tossed. Oddly, however, the unlocked strongbox was untouched and contained nearly four thousand dollars. Untouched as well were a wallet with six hundred dollars and IDs that pegged the manager as twenty-nine-year-old Donald Blunt of College Park, a grad student at the University of Maryland. The only thing we could determine as missing was the hard drive that recorded the feed from the lobby security cameras.

In the women’s locker room we found clothes, cash, three cell phones, and documents that identified the two female victims. The woman in the red hot pants was Kim Ho, a twenty-year-old Korean national who’d come to the United States three months before on a temporary work visa. The woman who’d died in the fetal position was An Lu, also Korean, nineteen, also in the United States on a short-term work visa.

“Third cell phone,” Sampson said.

“Third hooker,” I said, nodding as my mind flashed back to the wound on the Mad Man’s lower back, imagining how he had to have been kneeling when —

“Detective Cross?” Officer Carney said.

Sampson and I spun around. The patrolman was standing in the doorway, wearing surgical booties.

“Officer, I clearly asked you to stay outside and maintain the perimeter.”

Carney’s head retreated by several inches. “I’m sorry, sir, but I thought you’d want to know that there’s a hysterical young woman outside who says she knows at least one of the people working in here tonight.”

Copyright © 2013 by James Patterson

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Read by Michael Boatman & Tom Wopat

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