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Worst Case

Alex Cross has Washington, DC. The Women's Murder Club has San Francisco. Detective Michael Bennett has all of New York City—chaos capital of the world.

Best case: Survival
The son of one of New York's wealthiest families is snatched off the street and held hostage. His parents can't save him, because this kidnapper isn't demanding money. Instead, he quizzes his prisoner on the price others pay for his life of luxury. In this exam, wrong answers are fatal.

Worst case: Death
Detective Michael Bennett leads the investigation. With ten kids of his own, he can't begin to understand what could lead someone to target anyone's children. As another student disappears, another powerful family uses their leverage and connections to turn up the heat on the mayor, the press—anyone who will listen—to stop this killer. Their reach extends all the way to the FBI, which sends its top Abduction Specialist, Agent Emily Parker. Bennett's life—and love life—suddenly get even more complicated.

This case: Detective Michael Bennett is on it
Before Bennett has a chance to protest the FBI's intrusion on his case, the mastermind changes his routine. His plan leads up to the most devastating demonstration yet—one that could bring cataclysmic ruin to every inch of New York City. From the shocking first page to the last exhilarating scene, Worst Case is a nonstop thriller from "America's #1 storyteller" (Forbes).

Prologue | GIVE PEACE A CHANCE...OR ELSE

One

THE STOCKY MAN with the salt-and-pepper hair felt light-headed as he crossed beneath the marble arch into Washington Square Park. He dropped his backpack, took off his circular glasses, and blotted the sudden tears in his eyes with the sleeve of his ancient jeans jacket.

He hadn't planned on breaking down, but My God, he thought, wiping at his rugged, lined face. Now he knew how Vietnam veterans felt when they visited their Wall down in Washington, DC. If veterans of the antiwar movement had a monument—a Wall of Tears—it was here, where it all began, Washington Square Park.

Staring out over the windy park, he remembered all the incredible things that had occurred here. The antiwar demonstrations. Bob Dylan in the 4th Street basement clubs, singing about which way the wind was blowing. The candlelit faces of his old friends as they passed bottles and smoke. The whispered promises they had made to one another to change things, to make things better.

He looked out over the Friday-afternoon crowd by the center fountain, the people hovering over the chess tables, as if he might find a familiar face. But that was impossible, wasn't it? he thought with a shrug. They'd all moved on, like he had. Grown up. Sold out. Or were underground. Figuratively. Literally.

That time, his time, was almost completely faded now, just about dead and gone.

Just about, he thought as he knelt and removed the box of flyers from his knapsack.

But not quite.

On each of the five hundred sheets was a three-paragraph message entitled LOVE CAN CHANGE THE WORLD.

Who says you can't go home? he thought. A quote from Keith Richards popped into his head as he stacked the sheets.

"I got news for you. We're still a bunch of tough bastards. String us up and we still won't die." You said it, Keith, he thought, giggling to himself. Right on, brother. You and me both.

More and more over the last year, his thoughts kept coming back to his youth. It was the only time in his entire life when he'd felt like he meant something, when he'd felt he was making a positive difference.

Was coming back now after all this time a midlife crisis? Maybe. He didn't care. He'd decided he wanted that feeling again. Especially in light of recent events. The world now was in even more dire straits than the one he and his friends had fought to affect. It was time to do it again. Wake people up before it was too late.

That's why he was here. It had worked once. They had, after all, stopped a war. Maybe it could happen again. Even if he was a lot older, he wasn't dead yet. Not by any means.

He licked his thumb and took the first sheet from the stack. He smiled, remembering the countless flyers he'd handed out in Berkeley and Seattle, and in Chicago in '68. After all this time, here he was. Unbelievable. What a crazy life. Back in the saddle again.

Copyright © 2010 by James Patterson

Read by Bobby Cannavale, Orlagh Cassidy
and John Glover

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