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Kill Alex Cross

The President's son and daughter are abducted, and Detective Alex Cross is one of the first on the scene. But someone very high-up is using the FBI, Secret Service, and CIA to keep him off the case and in the dark.

A deadly contagion in the water supply cripples half of the capital, and Alex discovers that someone may be about to unleash the most devastating attack the United States has ever experienced.

As his window for solving both crimes narrows, Alex makes a desperate decision that goes against everything he believes—one that may alter the fate of the entire country. KILL ALEX CROSS is faster, more exciting, and more tightly wound than any Alex Cross thriller James Patterson has ever written!

Book One | UNACCOUNTED FOR

Chapter 2

AGENT FINDLAY QUICKLY AND EFFICIENTLY HUSTLED ETHAN AND ZOE away from the gawkers, and worse, the kids with their iPhones raised: Hello, YouTube! In a matter of seconds, he'd disappeared with them into the otherwise empty grand lecture hall off the main foyer.

The Branaff School had once been the Branaff Estate, until ownership had transferred to a Quaker educational trust. It was said among the kids that the grounds were haunted, not by good people who had died here, but by the disgruntled Branaff descendants who'd been evicted to make room for the private school.

Ethan didn't buy into any of that crap, but he'd always found the main lecture hall to be supercreepy—with its old-time oil portraits looking down disapprovingly on everybody who happened to pass through.

"You know, the president's going to have to hear about this, Zoe. The fight, your language back there," Agent Findlay said. "Not to mention Headmaster Skillings—"

"No doubt, so just do your job," Zoe answered with a shrug and a frown. She put a hand on top of her brother's head. "You okay, Eth?"

"I'm fine," he said, pushing her off. "Physically, anyway." His dignity was another question, but that was too complicated for him to think about right now.

"In that case, let's keep this parade moving," Findlay told them. "You guys have assembly in five."

"Got it," said Zoe with a dismissive wave. "Like we were going to forget assembly, right?"

The morning's guest speaker was Isabelle Morris, a senior fellow with the DC International Policy Institute and also an alum of the Branaff School. Unlike most of the kids he knew, Ethan was actually looking forward to Ms. Morris's talk about her experiences in the Middle East. Someday he hoped to work at the UN himself. Why not? He had pretty good connections, right?

"Can you give us a teeny-tiny second?" Zoe asked. "I want to talk to my brother—alone."

"I said I'm fine. It's cool,"Ethan insisted, but his sister cut him off with a glare.

"He tells me things he won't say to you," Zoe went on, answering Findlay's skeptical look. "And private conversations aren't exactly easy to come by around here, if you know what I mean. No offense meant."

"None taken." Findlay looked down at his watch. "Okay," he said. "Two minutes is all I can give you."

"Two minutes, it is. We'll be right out, I promise," Zoe said, and closed the heavy wooden door behind him as he left.

Without a word to Ethan, she cut between the rows of old desk seats and headed to the back of the room. She hopped up on the heating register under the windows.

Then Zoe reached inside her blue and gray uniform jacket and took out a small black lacquered case. Ethan recognized it right away. His sister had bought it in Beijing this past summer, on a trip to China with their parents.

"I'm all about a ciggie right now," Zoe whispered. Then she grinned wickedly. "Come with?"

Ethan looked back at the door. "I actually don't want to miss this assembly," he said, but Zoe just rolled her eyes.

"Oh, please. Blah, blah, blah, Middle East, blah, blah. You can watch it on CNN any hour of the week," she said. "But how often do you get a chance to ditch Secret Service? Come on!"

It was a totally no-win situation for him and Ethan knew it. He was either going to look like a wimp—again—or he was going to miss the assembly speech he'd been looking forward to all week.

"You shouldn't smoke," he said lamely.

"Yeah, well you shouldn't weenie out so much," Zoe answered. "Then maybe assholes like Ryan Townsend wouldn't be all over you all the time."

"That's just because Dad's the president," Ethan said. "That's all, right?"

"No. It's because you're a geek," Zoe said. "You don't see Spunk-Punk messing with me, do you?" She opened the window, effortlessly pulled herself through, and dropped to the ground outside. Zoe thought she was another Angelina Jolie. "If you're not coming, at least give me a minute to get away. Okay, Grandma?"

The next second, Zoe was gone.

Ethan looked over his shoulder one more time. Then he did the only thing he could to maintain his last shreds of dignity. He followed his sister out the lecture hall window—and into trouble he couldn't even begin to imagine.

No one could.

Copyright © 2011 by James Patterson

Read by Andre Braugher & Zach Grenier

Andre Braughner is an Emmy-award and Obie-award winning actor. His most recent film and television credits include Salt, Passengers, and Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer, and Men of a Certain Age. Born and raised in Chicago, he earned A BA from Stanford University and an MFA from Juilliard.

Zach Grenier’s film credits include Fight Club, Zodiac, Ride With the Devil, and Twister. He has appeared on such television series as The Good Wife, Deadwood, and 24. Most notable among his stage credits is the Broadway production of 33 Variations.

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