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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).

Part One | ASHES TO ASHES

Chapter 1

BOUND IN THE dark, Jacob Dunning thought about all the things he would give for a shower.

All his possessions? Done. One of his toes? In a heartbeat. One of his fingers? Hmmm, he thought. Did he really need his left pinkie?

Unidentified mudlike filth stuck to his cheek, his hair. Wearing only his NYU T-shirt and boxers, the handsome brown-haired college freshman lay on a soiled concrete floor in a very tight space.

An angry industrial hum raged in the vague distance. He was blindfolded, and his hands were cuffed to a pipe behind him. A gag around his mouth was knotted tight against the hollow indentation at the base of his skull.

The indentation was called the foramen magnum, he knew. It was where your spinal cord passed into your skull. Jacob had learned about it in anatomy class a month or so ago. NYU was step one in his lifelong dream to become a doctor. His father had an 1862 edition of Gray's Anatomy in his study, and ever since he was a little kid, Jacob had loved going through it. Kneeling in his father's great padded office chair with his chin in his hands, he'd spend hours poring over the elegant, fascinating sketches, the topography of the human body shaded and named like distant lands, like treasure maps.

Jacob sobbed at the safe, happy memory. A drop of lukewarm water landed on the back of his neck and dripped down his spine. The itch of it was unbearable. He would get sores soon if he wasn't able to stand. Bedsores, staph infection, disease.

The last thing he remembered was leaving Conrad's, an Alphabet City bar that didn't care about fake IDs. After a monstrously long chem lab, he'd been trying to chat up Heli, a stunning Finnish girl from his class. But after his fifth mojito, his tongue was losing speed. He'd called it a night when he noticed she was talking more to the male model of a bartender than to him.

His memory seemed to stop at the point when he stepped outside. How he got from there to here he couldn't recall.

For the billionth time, he tried to come up with a scenario in which everything turned out all right. His favorite was that it was a fraternity thing. A bunch of jocks had mistaken him for some other freshman, and this was a really messed-up hazing incident.

He started weeping. Where were his clothes? Why would somebody take his jeans, his socks and shoes? The scenarios in his head were too black to allow light to enter. He couldn't fool himself. He was in the deepest shit of his young life.

He banged his head on the pipe he was chained to as he heard a sound. It was the distant boom of a door. He felt his heart boom with it. His breath didn't seem to know if it wanted to come in or go out.

He was pretty much convulsing when he made out a jangle interspersed with the steady approach of footsteps. He suddenly thought of the handyman at his parents' building, the merry jingle of keys that bounced off his thigh. Skinny Mr. Durkin, who always had a tool in his hand. Hope gave him courage. It was a friend, he decided. Somebody who would save him.

"Hppp!" Jacob screamed from behind the gag.

The footsteps stopped. A lock clacked open, and cool air passed over the skin of his face. The gag was pulled off.

"Thank you! Oh, thank you! I don't know what happened. I—"

Jacob's breath blasted out of him as he was hit in the stomach with something tremendously hard. It was a steel-toed boot, and it seemed to knock his stomach clear through his spine.

Oh, God, Jacob thought, his head scraping the stone floor as he dry-heaved in filth. Dear God, please help me.

Copyright © 2010 by James Patterson

Read by Bobby Cannavale, Orlagh Cassidy
and John Glover

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