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I, Alex Cross

The best—and scariest!—Alex Cross novel since Along Came a Spider!

You can't run
Detective Alex Cross is pulled out of a family celebration and given the awful news that a beloved relative has been found brutally murdered. Alex vows to hunt down the killer, and soon learns that she was mixed up in one of Washington's wildest scenes. And she was not this killer's only victim.

You can't hide
The hunt for the murderer leads Alex and his girlfriend, Detective Brianna Stone, to a place where every fantasy is possible, if you have the credentials to get in. Alex and Bree are soon facing down some very important, very protected, very dangerous people in levels of society where only one thing is certain—they will do anything to keep their secrets safe.

Alex Cross is your only hope to stay alive
As Alex closes in on the killer, he discovers evidence that points to the unimaginable—a revelation that could rock the entire world. With the unstoppable action, unforeseeable twists, and edge-of-your-seat suspense that only a James Patterson thriller delivers, I, Alex Cross is the master of suspense at his sharpest and best.

Part One | FIRESTORM

Chapter 7

THE PUNCHES KEPT coming, hard ones. Despite the Rhode Island driver's license, Caroline had been living in Washington for the last six months, but she'd never tried to make contact with me. She had an english-style basement apartment on C near Seward Square—less than a mile from our house on Fifth Street. I'd jogged by her building dozens of times.

"She had nice taste," Bree said, looking around the small but stylish living room.

The furniture and decor had an Asian influence, lots of dark wood, bamboo, and healthy-looking plants. A lacquered table by the front door held three river stones, one of them carved with the word Serenity.

I didn't know if that felt more like a taunt or a reminder. Caroline's apartment was nowhere that I wanted to be right now. I wasn't ready for it.

"Let's split up," I told Bree. "We'll cover the apartment faster that way."

I started with the bedroom, forcing myself to keep going. Who were you, Caroline? What happened to you? How could you die the way you did?

One of the first things that caught my attention was a small brown leather date book on a desk near her bed. When I grabbed it, a couple of business cards fluttered out and onto the floor.

I picked them up and saw they were both for Capitol Hill lobbyists—though I didn't recognize the names, just the firms.

Half of Caroline's date book pages were blank; the others had strings of letters written on them, starting at the beginning of the year and going about two months ahead. each string was ten letters, I noticed right off. The most recent, from almost two weeks before Caroline had died, was SOD-BBLZHII. With ten letters.

The first thing I thought of was phone numbers, presumably coded or scrambled for privacy.

And if I asked myself why at that point, it was only because I was putting off an inevitable conclusion. By the time I'd gone through the big rosewood dresser in her walk-in closet, there was little doubt left about how my niece had been affording this beautiful apartment and everything in it.

The top drawers were filled with every kind of lingerie I could imagine, and I have a good imagination. There was the more expected lacy and satin stuff, but also leather, with and without studs, latex, rubber—all of it neatly folded and arranged. Probably the way her mother had taught her to organize her clothing as a kid.

The bottom drawers held a collection of restraints, insertive objects, toys, and contraptions, some of which I could only guess about and shake my head over.

Separately, everything I'd found was no more than circumstantial. All together, it got me very depressed, very quickly.

Was this why Caroline had moved to DC? And was it the reason she'd died the way she did?

I came out to the living room in a fog, not even sure I could talk yet. Bree was down on the floor with an open box and several photos spread in front of her.

She held one up for me to see. "I'd recognize you anywhere," she said.

It was a snapshot of Nana, Blake, and me. I even knew the date—July 4, 1976, the summer of the Bicentennial. In the picture, my brother and I were wearing plastic boaters with red, white, and blue bands around them. Nana looked impossibly young and so pretty.

Bree stood up next to me, still looking at the photo. "She didn't forget you, Alex. One way or another, Caroline knew who you were. It makes me wonder why she didn't try to contact you after she came to DC."

The picture of Nana, my brother, and me wasn't mine to take, but I put it in my jacket pocket anyway. "I don't think she wanted to be found," I said. "Not by me. Not by anybody she knew. She was an escort, Bree. High-end. Anything goes."

Copyright © 2009 by James Patterson

Read by Tim Cain & Michael Cerveris

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