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Mary, Mary

Alex Cross travels to Hollywood to hunt for a brutal killer in his most terrifying case yet.

FBI Agent Alex Cross is on vacation with his family in Disneyland when he gets a call from the Director. A well-known actress was shot outside her home in Beverly Hills. Shortly afterward, an editor for the Los Angeles Times receives an e-mail describing the murder in vivid details. Alex quickly learns that this is not an isolated incident. The killer, known as Mary Smith, has done this before and plans to kill again.

Right from the beginning, this case is like nothing Alex has ever been confronted with before. Is this the plan of an obsessed fan or a spurned actor, or is it part of something much more frightening? Now members of Hollywood's A-list fear they're next on Mary's list, and the case grows by blockbuster proportions as the LAPD and FBI scramble to find a pattern before Mary can send one more chilling update.

Filled with the ruthless and shocking twists that make his fans hunger for more, Mary, Mary is James Patterson's most sophisticated thriller yet.

Chapter 1

ACT ONE, SCENE ONE, the Storyteller thought to himself, and couldn't hold back a dizzying rush of anticipation.The truth was that ordinary people committed perfect crimes and perfect murders all the time. But you didn't hear about it for the simple reason that the killers never got caught.

And neither would he, of course. That was a given in the story he was about to tell. Which didn't mean that today wasn't nerveracking. Actually, this was the most intense moment in the past couple of insane years for him. He was ready to kill somebody, a complete stranger, and he had figured out that New York City was the right place for his first.

It almost happened just outside a basement restroom in Bloomingdale's, but he didn't feel right about the location.

Too crowded, even at half past ten in the morning.

Too noisy, and yet not noisy enough to provide the proper distraction.

Plus, he didn't like the idea of trying to escape out onto the unfamiliar territory of Lexington Avenue, or especially down into the claustrophobic IRT subway tunnels. When it felt right, he'd know it, and act accordingly.

So the Storyteller moved on and decided to catch a flick at the Sutton Theater on East 57th Street, a funky, run-down place that had obviously seen better days.

Maybe this was a good place for a murder. He liked the irony, even if he was the only one who got it. Yes, maybe this was going to work out great, he thought as he sat in one of the two small auditoriums inside.

He began to watch Kill Bill Volume 2 with seven other Tarantino aficionados.

Which one of these unsuspecting people would be his victim? You? You? You there? The Storyteller spun the tale inside his head.

There were two loudmouths in identical New York Yankees baseball caps, worn backward, of course. The irritating morons didn't shut up once through the interminable ads and trailers. They both deserved to die.

So did an atrociously dressed elderly couple, who didn't talk to each other at all, not once in fifteen minutes before the houselights went down. Killing them would be a good deed,almost a public service.

A fragile-looking woman,early forties,seemed to be having the shakes two rows in front of the moldy oldies. Bothering no one - except him.

And then a big black dude with his sneakered feet up on the seat in front of him. Rude, inconsiderate bastard in his old-school Converses that must have been at least size fourteens.

Next, a black-bearded movie nerd who probably had seen the movie a dozen times already and worshipped Quentin Tarantino, of course.

Turned out, it was the bearded wonder who got up about halfway through the movie, just after Uma Thurman was buried alive. Jesus, who could walk out on that classic scene?

Duty-bound, he followed, a couple of seconds behind. Out into the dingy hall, then into the men's room,which was located near theater two.

He was actually shaking now.Was this it? His moment? His first murder? The beginning of everything he'd dreamed about for months? Make that years.

He was pretty much on autopilot, trying not to think about anything except doing this right, then getting in and out of the movie theater without anybody noticing his face or too much else about him.

The bearded guy was standing at the urinal, which was kind of good news, actually.The shot was nicely framed and art-directed.

Wrinkled, grungy black T-shirt that said NYU FILM SCHOOL with a clapsticks logo on the back. Reminded him of a character out of a Daniel Clowes comic book, and that graphic shit was hot right now.

"And . . . action!" he said.

Then he shot the poor bearded loser in the back of the head,watched him drop like a heavy sack to the bathroom floor. Lie there - nothing moving. The blast roared through his head in the tiled room, louder than he'd dreamed it would be.

"Hey - what the? What happened? Hey!" he heard, and the Storyteller whirled around as if there was an audience watching him in the men's room.

Two guys from the Sutton Theater crew had entered behind him.They must have been curious about the noise. And how much had they seen?

"Heart attack," he said, blurted it out, tried to sound convincing. "Man just fell over at the urinal. Help me get him up. Poor guy. He's bleeding!"

No panic,no affect,no second thoughts whatsoever. Everything was pure instinct now, right, wrong,or indifferent.

He raised his gun and shot both theater workers as they stood walleyed and dorky at the door. He shot them again when they were down on the floor. Just to be careful. Professional.

And now he was really shaking, legs like J-E-LL-O, but trying to walk very calmly out of the men's room.

Then out of the Sutton Theater onto 57th, heading east on foot. Everything outside feeling completely unreal and otherworldly, everything so bright and brassy.

He'd done it. He'd killed three people instead of just one. His first three murders. It was just practice, but he'd done it, and you know what? He could do it again.

"Practice makes perfect," the Storyteller whispered under his breath as he hurried toward his car - his getaway car, right? God, this was the best feeling of his life. Of course, that didn't say much for his life up to now, did it?

But watch out from here on, just watch out.

For Mary, Mary, quite contrary.

Of course, he was the only one who got that. So far,anyway.

Copyright © 2005 by James Patterson

Read by Peter J. Fernandez, Melissa Leo, & Michael Louis Wells
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