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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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The First 4 Chapters

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Part One | SIXTEEN DAYS EARLIER...

Chapter 8

“I’M ALEX CROSS,” I said to the young woman after Officer Carney had brought her under the tape and led her over to me. “Could I see your identification, miss?”

Young, Asian, and wearing jeans, sneakers, and a George Washington University Windbreaker, she seemed not to hear my request at first. She just stared at the door to the Superior Spa. Everything about her looked tortured.

“Miss?” I said softly.

Her voice trembled as she asked, “They all dead?”

“I’m afraid everyone inside is deceased, yes,” I replied. “How did —”

Everything about her seemed to dissolve right then. I couldn’t catch her before she collapsed to the sidewalk. She choked, retched, and vomited several times. Then she looked up at me and began to sob. “I knew this place was —I . . . I told her. But she always said it was —”

The young woman started hyperventilating and then dry-heaving. I squatted down next to her, put my hand on her back, trying to comfort her. But it was as if I’d put a hot iron on her skin.

She jerked away from me, cowered against the front of a paint store, flinging up her hands, screaming, “No! No! Don’t touch me!”

“Miss,” I said. “I’m not here to —”

And then I got it.

I stood, took several steps back, and squatted down again. Like I said, I’m a big man, and I was trying to make myself smaller. I motioned with my chin for Sampson, who’d been listening, to do the same.

“Miss?” I said. “Do you work here?”

Her eyes had gone haunted again, but she shook her head violently.

“Did you used to work here?” Sampson asked.

Her eyes darted toward the front door and the tears began to gush out of her. “My parents,” she sobbed. “They’re going to know, aren’t they?”

We spent the next fifteen minutes getting the gist of her story. Her name was Blossom Mai. She was nineteen and a sophomore at George Washington University, a premed major from San Diego. Her parents were Vietnamese immigrants who’d worked eighty-hour weeks to send her to school. They covered what she had not received in scholarships for room and board, but nothing more.

The job Blossom had at school was not enough to live on, or at least it did not feel that way when she compared her life to her rich classmates’. Last fall, Blossom had made a new friend. Her name was Cam Nguyen. A year older, a junior economics major at GW, Cam came from Orange County, California, and was also a second-generation Vietnamese-American girl whose parents had scrimped for her education.

But Cam wore the latest clothes. And on Saturday nights she went to expensive bars in Georgetown. Cam seemed to have anything she wanted.

“So you asked her how she was doing it?” Sampson said.

Blossom nodded. “She said it was safer working here than as an escort because there was always an armed manager guarding you.”

The deal was simple. Each girl paid the house manager five hundred a shift. Each customer paid the manager seventy-five dollars. The girls took everything beyond that. Many nights Cam netted a thousand, sometimes fifteen hundred. But Blossom only worked at the Superior Spa for one night.

“I felt like I was in a filthy nightmare,” she told us, crying again. “I . . . I just couldn’t do it again. Couldn’t even spend the money. I gave it away to the homeless shelter. But Cam, she could turn things off, you know?”

“Why do you think Cam’s in there?”

“I know she’s in there,” Blossom said. “We live next door to each other in a building a few blocks from here. I saw her in the hallway two, no three hours ago. She said she was on her way here and tried to get me to go with her again.”

“I’m glad you didn’t,” I said softly.

After a moment, Blossom asked weakly, “She’s dead? Cam?”

“We don’t know,” Sampson said. “But she’s not in there.”

“Really?” Blossom said, her eyes wide with sudden hope. “Maybe she decided not to come.”

“Got her cell phone number?”

She nodded, gave it to me. I said to Sampson, “Go inside, listen for it.”

Sampson understood and left. I waited a minute and then punched in the number. It rang. My partner answered. “Right here,” he said. “The blue iPhone.”

“Okay,” I said, hung up, and looked at Blossom. “Her phone’s inside, but nothing else.”

“No,” Blossom said, shaking her head. “She would never, ever leave her phone. She was, like, a textaholic.”

“What if she’d just shot four people?” I asked. “Would she leave it behind?”

“Cam?” She paused. “I guess I don’t know.” Then anguish took her. “How am I going to explain this to my parents?”

I was confused but then understood. “Blossom, as long as you are cooperating with us, as far as we’re concerned, your parents don’t have to know a thing about this. Ever.”

“Really?”

“Really.”

Blossom Mai broke down all over again.

Copyright © 2013 by James Patterson

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Read by Michael Boatman & Tom Wopat

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