NYPD Red is a special task force charged with protecting the interests of Manhattan's wealthiest and most powerful citizens. When a world-famous movie producer is poisoned on the first day of a Manhattan film festival called Hollywood on the Hudson, they are the first ones called. Then an actor is killed on the set of a film. And a Molotov cocktail explodes at a movie premiere.
Detective First Grade Zach Jordan and his new partner—and ex-girlfriend—Detective Kylie MacDonald are assigned to the case. The killer has every murder, every escape, planned down to the last detail—and he's scripted an explosive finale that will bring New York and Hollywood to its knees. With larger-than-life action, relentless speed, and white-knuckle twists, NYPD RED is a mega-blockbuster from "The Man Who Can't Miss." (TIME)
Prologue | THE CHAMELEON
INT. KITCHEN—REGENCY HOTEL,
NEW YORK CITY—DAY
It’s the height of the breakfast rush at the Regency’s world-famous You-Can-Kiss-Our-Ass-If-You’re-Not-Richand-Powerful dining room. THE CHAMELEON slips quietly into the busy kitchen. His sandy hair is now dark, his skin copper. He blends right in, just another nameless Puerto Rican in a busboy uniform. He goes totally unnoticed.
THE CHAMELEON HAD stared at those words in his script hundreds of times. This morning they were coming to life.
His movie was finally in production. “And action,” he whispered as he entered the Regency kitchen through a rear door.
He did not go unnoticed.
“You!” one of the black-tied, white-jacketed waiters yelled. “Get out there and top off the coffee cups at table twelve.”
Not exactly what he’d scripted, but so much better than he could have hoped for. Like most New York actors, The Chameleon knew his way around a restaurant kitchen. He filled one chrome carafe with regular coffee, another with decaf, and pushed through the swinging door into the dining room.
The cast of characters was even better than he had expected too. Today was the start of Hollywood on the Hudson week, the city’s all-out push to steal more film production business from LA. So in addition to the usual East Coast power brokers, the room was chock-full of Hollywood ass-holes chewing on multimillion-dollar deals and hundred-dollar breakfasts. And there, holding court at table twelve, was none other than Sid Roth.
If you could go to prison for destroying careers, families, and souls, Sid Roth would be serving a string of consecutive life sentences. But in the movie biz, being a heartless prick was a plus if it translated into the bottom line, and over the past three decades Roth had turned Mesa Films from a mom-and-pop shop into a megastudio. The man was God, and the four other guys at the table were happily basking in His aura.
The Chameleon began pouring coffee when Roth, who was regaling his tablemates with a Hollywood war story, put a hand over his cup and said, “Get me another tomato juice, will you?”
“Yes, sir,” The Chameleon said. One tomato juice and a featured cameo coming up for Mr. Roth.
He was back in less than three minutes with Roth’s juice. “Muchas gracias, amigo,” Roth said, and he emptied the glass without giving his waiter a second look.
And vaya con Dios to you. The Chameleon went back to the kitchen and disappeared through the rear door. He had ten minutes for a costume change.
The men’s room in the lobby of the hotel was posh and private. Cloth hand towels, floor-to-ceiling walnut doors on each stall, and, of course, no surveillance cameras.
Half a dozen Neutrogena makeup-removing wipes later, he went from swarthy Latino to baby-faced white boy. He traded the waiter’s outfit for a pair of khakis and a pale blue polo.
He headed back to the lobby and positioned himself at a bank of house phones where he could watch the rest of the scene unfold. It was out of his hands now. He only hoped it would play out half as exciting as writ.
INT. REGENCY DINING ROOM—DAY
Camera is tight on THE VICTIM as he feels the first effects of the sodium fluoroacetate. He grabs the edge of the table, determined to fight it off, but his legs won’t hold him. Panic sets in as his body goes into catastrophic betrayal and his neurological center goes haywire. He experiences a full-blown seizure, vomiting violently, flailing his arms, and finally crashing face-first into his mushroom-tomato frittata.
“How do you know he’ll order a frittata?” Lexi had said when she read it.
“It doesn’t matter what he orders,” The Chameleon said. “It’s a placeholder. I just had to write something.”
“Oatmeal would be better,” she said. “Maybe with some berries. Much more cinematic. How do you know he’s going to do all that...what did you call it? Catastrophic betrayal?”
“It’s a guideline. I won’t even know who the victim is till the last minute. Most of it is improv. All we want is for the guy to die a miserable, violent death.”
Sid Roth delivered. The vomit, the panic in his eyes, the spastic seizure—it was all there. Instead of falling facedown, he took a few blind steps, crashed into a table, and cracked his skull on the base of a marble column when he hit the floor. There was lots of blood—a nice little bonus.
A woman screamed, “Call 911!”
“And cut,” The Chameleon whispered.
All in all, a brilliant performance.
He texted Lexi as he walked toward the subway. Scene went perfectly. One take.
Fifteen minutes later, he was on the F train reading Variety, just another blue-eyed, fair-skinned, struggling New York actor heading to his next gig—a 9:00 call at Silvercup Studios.
Copyright © 2012 by James Patterson
Edoardo Ballerini is an actor and an award-winning audiobook narrator. On screen, he's best known for his working the television series The Sopranos, Boardwalk Empire, and 24. Edoardo was nominated for a 2012 Audie Award for his recording of The Land of Laughs. AudioFile Magazine named him one of the "Best Voices of 2011."
Jay Snyder has performed on Broadway and Off-Broadway, regional theatre, television, film, and works regularly in the voice-over industry.