Nov. 25, 2013 at 8:37 AM ET
James Patterson's beloved protagonist Alex Cross returns in "Cross My Heart," a new thriller that pits the steely detective against his greatest challenge yet. Here's an excerpt.
Just after eight that night, I was getting ready to pack it in, head home, have a beer, see my wife and kids, and watch the last half of the game. So was John Sampson. It had been a long, grinding day for both of us and we’d made little progress on the cases we were working. We both groaned when Captain Murphy appeared, blocking the doorway.
“Another one?” I said.
“You’ve got to be kidding,” Sampson said.
“Not in the least,” Murphy replied grimly. “We’ve got at least three dead at a massage parlor over on Connecticut. Patrolmen on the scene said it’s a bloodbath just based on what they’ve seen in the front room. They’re waiting for you and Sampson to go through the rest of the place. Forensics is swamped, backed up. They’ll be there as soon as they can.”
I sighed, tossed the Kimmel file on my desk, and grabbed my blue Homicide Windbreaker. Sampson grabbed his own Windbreaker and drove us in an unmarked sedan over to Connecticut Avenue just south of Dupont Circle. Metro patrol officers had already set up a generous perimeter around the massage parlor. The first television news camera crews were arriving. We hustled behind the yellow tape before they could spot us.
Officer K. D. Carney, a young patrolman and the initial responder, filled us in. At 7:55 p.m. dispatch took a 911 report from an anonymous male caller who said someone had “gone psycho inside the Superior Spa on Connecticut Ave.” “I was on my way home from work, and close by, so I was first on the scene,” said Carney, a baby-faced guy with no eyebrows or lashes and no hair on his face or forearms. I pegged him as a sufferer from alopecia areata, a disorder that causes a total loss of body hair.
“Contamination?” I asked.
“None from me, sir,” the young officer replied. “Took one look, saw three deceased, backed out, sealed the place. Front and back. There’s an alley exit.”
“Let’s button up that alley, too, for the time being,” I said.
“You want me to search it?”
“Wait for the crime scene unit.”
You could tell Carney was disappointed in the way only someone who desperately wanted to be a detective could be disappointed. But that was the way it had to be. The fewer people with access to the crime scene, the better.
“You know the history of this place, right?” Carney said as Sampson and I donned blue surgical booties and latex gloves.
“Remind us,” Sampson said.
“Used to be called the Cherry Blossom Spa,” Carney said. “It was shut down for involvement in sexual slavery a few years back.”
I remembered now. I’d heard about it when I was still out working at Quantico for the FBI. The girls were underage, lured by the promise of easy entry into the United States, and enslaved here by Asian crime syndicates.
“How in God’s name did this place ever reopen?” I asked.
Carney shrugged. “New ownership, I’d guess.”
“Thanks, Officer,” I said, heading toward the massage parlor. “Good work.”
I opened the door, and we took three steps into a scene straight out of an Alfred Hitchcock movie.
The place reeked of some kind of citrus-based cleanser, and stereo speakers hummed with feedback. Sprawled in every ounce of her blood, an Asian female in red hot pants, heels, and a white T-shirt lay on the floor. One round had hit her through the neck, taking out the carotid.
A second victim, also an Asian female, dressed in a threadbare robe, lay on her side next to a maroon curtain. She was curled almost into a fetal position, but her shoulders were twisted slightly toward the ceiling. Her right eye was open and her fingers splayed. Blood stained her face and matted her hair, draining from what used to be the socket of her left eye.
The third victim, the massage parlor’s night manager, was sprawled against a blood-spattered wall behind the counter. There was a look of surprise on his face and a bullet hole dead center in his forehead.
I counted four .9mm shells around the bodies. It appeared that the killer had sprayed disinfectant all over the room. Streams of it stained the bodies, the furniture, and the floor. There was an empty five-gallon container of Citrus II Hospital Germicidal Deodorizing Cleanser concentrate by the manager’s corpse. We discovered a second empty container of it beyond the maroon curtain in the L-shaped hallway, as depressing a place as I’ve ever been, with exposed stud walls and grimy, unpainted plasterboard.
In the back room on the right, we found the fourth victim.
I am a big man, and Sampson stands six foot five, but the bruiser facedown on the mattress was physically in a whole other league. I judged him to be six foot eight and close to three hundred pounds, most of it muscle. He had longish brown hair that hung over his face, which was matted in blood.
I took several pictures with my phone, squatted down, and with my gloved fingers pushed back the hair to get a better look at the wound. When I did, the big man’s face was revealed and I stopped short.
“Sonofabitch,” said Sampson, who was standing behind me. “Is that — ?”
“Pete Francones,” I said, nodding in disbelief. “The Mad Man himself.”
Pete “Mad Man” Francones had anchored the Washington Redskins defensive unit for fourteen years. A defensive end with outstanding speed and quickness, Francones wreaked havoc in the NFL, earning a reputation as a tireless worker and an insanely passionate player on game day.
His histrionics on the sideline during big games in college had earned him the nickname, and he’d parlayed the whole Mad Man thing into a fortune in commercial endorsements. It didn’t hurt that Francones was good- looking, smart, well-spoken, and irreverent, traits that had earned him a coveted spot commentating on Monday Night Football just the season before.
And now Francones was the fourth victim in a killing spree in one of the sleaziest places in DC? This guy?
From Cross My Heart by James Patterson. Copyright © 2013 by James Patterson. Used by permission of Little, Brown and Company, a division of Hachette Book Group.