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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

Two

"HI THERE," he said, offering the flyer to a young black woman pushing a toddler in a stroller.

He smiled at her, making eye contact. He was good with people, always had been. "I have a message here that I think you should take a look at, if it's not too much trouble. It concerns, well, everything."

"Leave me the hell alone with that nonsense," she said with surprising vehemence, almost smacking it out of his hand.

Had to expect a little of that, he thought with a nod. Some people were a hard sell. Came with the territory. Unfazed, he immediately walked over toward a group of teenagers skateboarding by the statue of Garibaldi.

"Afternoon, guys. I have a message here that I'd like you to read. Only take a second out of your day. If you're concerned about the state of affairs and about our future, I think it's something you should really consider."

They stared at him, dumbfounded. Up close, he was surprised to see the crow's-feet around their eyes. They weren't teenagers. They were in their late twenties and early thirties. Hard-looking. Kind of mean, actually.

"Holy shit! It's John Lennon!" one of them said. "I thought somebody shot you. Where's Yoko? When you getting back with Paul?"

The rest of them burst into sharp laughter.

Jerks, he thought, heading immediately over toward the center fountain, where a street comedian was giving a performance. Yeah, the fate of the world was a real rip, wasn't it? He wouldn't let those assholes get to him. He just needed to hit on the right person and things would start rolling. Persistence was the name of the game.

People averted their eyes as he approached them. Not one person would take a flyer. What the hell was this? he wondered.

It was fifteen fruitless minutes later when a petite woman walking past took the flyer from his hand. Finally, the man thought. His smile collapsed as the woman crumpled it and dropped it to the paved path. He ran forward and scooped it up before he caught up to her.

"The least you could do was wait until you were out of sight before you threw it out in a garbage can," he said as he whirled in front of her. "You have to litter, too?"

"I'm...sorry?" the woman said, pulling the white iPod buds from her ears. She hadn't heard a word he'd said. Were all young people today retarded or something? Didn't they see where everything was heading? Didn't they care?

"You certainly are," he mumbled as she walked off. "You are sorry. A sorry excuse for a human being."

He stopped dead when he got back to the park's entrance. Someone had kicked over the stack, and most of the flyers were wafting away under the arch, over the sidewalk, whipping north up Fifth Avenue.

He ran out of the park and chased them for a while. He finally stopped. He felt completely drained and idiotic as he sat on the curb between a couple of parked cars.

He held his head in his hands as he wept. For twenty minutes he cried, listening to the wind, watching the relentless roll of traffic in the street.

Flyers? he thought, sniffling. He thought he could change things with a sheet of paper and a concerned expression? He looked down at the antique jeans jacket he'd taken from the back of his closet. So proud that it still fit. He really was a complete fool.

There was only one thing that could get people to sit up straight, only one thing that would open their eyes.

Only one thing then.

And only one thing now.

He nodded, finally resolving himself. He wasn't going to be getting any help. He had to do it himself. Fine. Enough of this nonsense. The clock was ticking. He didn't have any more time to fool the fuck around.

He discovered he was still holding on to a crumpled flyer. He smoothed it out on the cold pavement beside him, took out a pen, and made a vital correction. It snapped like an unfurled flag as he let the wind take it from his fingers.

The broad man with the graying hair wiped his eyes as the sheet he'd written on caught high on the corner lamppost behind him.

The word LOVE in the title had been X'ed out. Against an ash-gray sky above him it now said,

Blood CAN CHANGE THE WORLD!

Copyright © 2010 by James Patterson

Read by Bobby Cannavale, Orlagh Cassidy
and John Glover

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