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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 3

IT WAS THE Catholic grammar school version of March Madness in Holy Name's gym that Sunday around noon. A deafening chaos of ringing basketballs, screaming cheerleaders, and howling sugar-crazed kids rolling over the laminated hardwood on Heelys rose to the angel-carved rafters.

In addition to the noise, it was overly hot, dusty, and crowded, and I couldn't have been happier.

I found myself where I always do when chaos is present, smack-dab in the middle of it. With a whistle around my neck, I was standing at center court, overseeing layup and passing drills as our JV squad, the Holy Name Bulldogs, warmed up. St. Ann's, our crosstown rival from Third Avenue, was doing the same at the opposite end of the court.

Having one son, Ricky, on the varsity squad and another, Eddie, on the JV, I'd somehow found myself nodding in the affirmative when I was asked by the principal, Sister Sheilah, to replace the JV's coach. At first I'd been reluctant. Hello? Single dad, ten kids? Like I didn't have enough to do? But Sister Sheilah can smell a sucker like me from two miles away.

From ball-handling drills to doing the Xs and Os on the chalkboard to even putting away the folding chairs after the game, I'd actually come to get a kick out of coaching. I don't know if any of my 0-and-6 Bulldogs were NBA-bound, but witnessing them gain confidence in themselves and watching the magic that came from going from a bunch of individuals to a somewhat cohesive team, I guess you could do worse things with a Sunday.

The crowd had become so loud at the tip-off that I almost didn't hear the phone going off at my hip. I didn't recognize the number as work, but that didn't mean much. We rotated weekends on my new squad. Guess whose weekend this was?

"Bennett here," I screamed into it.

"Mike, it's Carol. Carol Fleming."

Damn, I thought, closing my eyes. I knew it. Carol was my new boss. Well, my new boss's boss actually. Her name was Chief Carol Fleming. She was the commanding officer of the NYPD's Special Investigative Division, which would have been a big deal even if she weren't the first woman ever to hold the job.

In January, I'd been rotated out of Manhattan North Homicide to the Major Case Squad under her command. Although I preferred Homicide, I had to admit that Major Case, which investigated high-profile bank robberies, art thefts, and kidnappings, wasn't exactly putting me to sleep.

"What's up, boss?" I said.

"We have a possible kidnapping uptown. You need to see April Dunning at One West Seventy-second Street, apartment ten B. Her son, Jacob, seems to be missing. Jacob's father, Donald Dunning, is founder and CEO of—"

"Latvium and Company, the multinational pharmaceutical company," I finished for her. "I've heard of him."

I'd actually read about him in a Forbes magazine at my kids' dentist's office. Dunning was a billionaire, and one of the mayor's golfing buddies. I could see where this was heading.

"How old is his kid, Jacob?"

"Eighteen," the chief said.

"Eighteen!?" I said. "Jacob's not missing. He's eighteen."

"I know what it sounds like, Mike. Somebody with City Hall juice looking for their probably party-hearty kid. Be that as it may, I still need you to check it out. Get back to me as soon as you can."

I wrote down the time and address on the back of my player list after I hung up. Find somebody else's kid? I thought. I had trouble enough keeping track of my own. I waved over Seamus, who was booing furiously as one of the St. Ann's players hit a three-pointer.

"Putting me in, Coach, are ya?" my wiseass grandfather priest said in his Guinness-thick brogue. "I keep telling ya

I still got game."

I shook my head.

"Listen, Monsignor. I need to check on something, hopefully very quickly. Fill in for me until I get back. On second thought, just stand here and don't say or do anything. Please."

"Finally," Seamus said, gleefully snatching the clipboard from me and rolling up the sleeves of his black shirt. "Maybe we'll win one this time."

Copyright © 2010 by James Patterson

Read by Bobby Cannavale, Orlagh Cassidy
and John Glover

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