Read Cross Country Online

Authors: James Patterson

Cross Country

CROSS COUNTRY
BY
JAMES PATTERSON
Synopsis:

Detective Alex Cross pursues the most ruthless killer he's ever encountered — to a land of sheer terror and back. Detective Alex Cross is called to the worst murder scene he has encountered in all his years on the force. Someone with less than zero regard for human life has slaughtered a family — and then more killings, each one more ruthless than the last, quickly follow. One of those deaths comes terrifyingly close to home, and Alex realizes that he is chasing a horrible new breed of killer.

As Alex and his girlfriend, Detective Brianna Stone, dig deeper into the case, they become entangled in the deadly African underworld of Washington DC. What they discover there is so shocking that they can barely comprehend it: a strongly organized gang of teenage thugs headed by a diabolical warlord known only as the Tiger. When the elusive killer's trail turns up in Africa, Alex knows that he must follow. Alone.

When Alex arrives in Nigeria, he discovers a world where justice is as foreign as he is. Unprotected and alone In a strange country, bombarded on all sides by the murderous threats of the Tiger, can Alex manage to both survive and catch the killer?

Prologue

HOME INVASION

One

GEORGETOWN, WASHINGTON, DC

T
he surname of the family was Cox, the father a very successful trial lawyer, but the target was the mother, Ellie Randall Cox. The timing was right now, tonight, just minutes away. The payday was excellent, couldn't be better.

The six-foot-six, two-hundred-fifty-pound killer known as "the Tiger" had given out guns to his team-also a gram of cocaine to share, and the only instruction they would need tonight: The mother is mine. Kill the rest.

His secondary mission was to scare the American meddlers. He knew how they felt about home invasions, and their precious families, and murders in cold blood. They had so many rules for how life ought to be conducted. The secret to beating them was to break all their silly, sacred rules.

He settled down to watch the house from the street. Wood blinds in the first-floor windows drew horizontal lines across the family members as they moved around inside, unaware of the murderous forces gathered outside.

The boys waited restlessly at the Tiger's side, and he waited for instinct to tell him it was time to move on the house.

"Now," he said, "we go!"

Then, with only the slightest bend and whack of the knees, he began to run, breaking out of the camouflaging shadow of an evergreen, his strides almost too fast to count.

A single, powerful leap and he was up on the stoop of the house. Next came three splintering blows to the front door. It seemed to explode open, and they were inside, the kill team, all five of them.

The boys, none older than seventeen, streamed in around him, firing Berettas into the living room ceiling, waving crude hunting knives, shouting orders that were hard to understand because their English was not at the level of the Tiger's.

The children of the house screamed like little piglets; their lawyer father leapt up and tried to shield them with his flabby, overfed body.

"You are pitiful!" the Tiger shouted at him. "You can't even protect your family in your own house."

Soon enough, three family members were corralled against the living room mantel, which was covered with birthday cards addressed to "Momma" and "My Darling Ellie" and "Sweetness and Light."

The leader nudged the youngest of his boys forward, the one who had chosen the name Nike and who had a contagious sense of humor. "Just do it," the Tiger said.

The boy was eleven years old and fearless as a crocodile in a muddy river. He raised a pistol much larger than his own hand and fired it into the shivering father's forehead.

The other boys howled their approval, shooting off rounds in all directions, overturning antique furniture, breaking mirrors and windows. The Cox children were weeping and holding one another.

One particularly scary, blank-faced boy in a Houston Rockets jersey emptied his magazine into the wide-screen television, then reloaded. "Rock da house!" he shouted.

Two

T
HE MOTHER, "DARLING Ellie" and "Sweetness and Light" finally came running and screaming down the stairs for her Akata babies.

"Leave them out of this!" she yelled at the tall and very muscular leader. "I know who you are!"

"Of course you do, Mother," said the Tiger as he smiled at the tall, matronly woman. He had no desire to harm her really. This was just a job to him. A high-paying one, important to somebody here in Washington.

The two children scrambled to get to their mother, and it became an absurd game of cat and mouse. His boys shot holes in the sofa as the wheezing American young ones squeezed behind it.

When they emerged on the other side, the Tiger was there to pluck the squealing son off the floor with one hand. The young girl in the Rugrats pajamas was a little more clever and ran up the stairs, showing little pink heels at every step.

"Go, baby!" her mother yelled. "Get out a window! Run! Keep running!"

"Won't happen," said the Tiger. "No one gets away from here tonight, Mother."

"Don't do this!" she begged. "Let them go! They're just children!"

"You know who I am," he said to her. "So you know how this will end. You knew all along. Look at what you brought on yourself and on your family. You did this to them."

Part One
LATE TO THE PARTY
Chapter 1

T
HE HARDEST MYSTERIES to solve are the ones you come to near the end, because there isn't enough evidence, not enough to unravel, unless somehow you can go all the way back to the beginning — rewind and replay everything.

I was riding in the lap of comfort and civility, my year-old Mercedes. I was thinking about how odd it was to be going to a murder scene now. And then I was there, leaving my vehicle, and feeling conflicted about going over to the dark side again.

Was I getting too soft for this? I wondered for an instant, then let it go. I wasn't soft. If anything, I was still too hard, too unyielding, too uncompromising.

Then I was thinking that there was something particularly terrifying about random, senseless murder, and that's what this appeared to be, that's what everyone thought anyway. It's what I was told when the call came to the house.

"It's rough in there, Dr. Cross. Five vics. It's an entire family."

"Yeah, I know it is. That's what they said."

One of the first responders, a young officer I know named Michael Fescoe, met me on the sidewalk at the murder scene in Georgetown, not far from the university where I'd gone as an undergrad and which I remembered fondly for all sorts of reasons, but mostly because Georgetown had taken a chance on me.

The patrolman was visibly shaken. No surprise there. Metro didn't call me in special at eleven o'clock on a Sunday night for run-of-the-mill homicides.

"What have we got so far?" I said to Fescoe and flashed my badge at a patrolman seemingly guarding an oak tree. Then I ducked under the bright yellow tape in front of the house. Beautiful house, a three-story Colonial on Cambridge Place, a well-heeled single block just south of Montrose Park.

Neighbors and looky-loos crowded the sidewalk — but they stayed at a safe distance in their pajamas and robes, keeping up their white-collar reserve.

"Family of five, all of them dead," Fescoe repeated himself. "The name's Cox. Father, Reeve. Mother, Eleanor. Son, James. All on the first floor. Daughters, Nicole and Clara, on the third. There's blood everywhere. Looks like they were shot first. Then cut up pretty bad and piled into groupings."

Piled. I sure didn't like the sound of that. Not inside this lovely home. Not anywhere.

"Senior officers on site? Who caught it?" I asked.

"Detective Stone is upstairs. She's the one asked me to page you. ME's still on the way. Probably a couple of them. Christ, what a night."

"You've got that right."

Bree Stone was a bright star with the Violent Crimes branch, and one of the few detectives I went out of my way to partner with, pun intended, since she and I were a couple and had been for more than a year now.

"Let Detective Stone know that I'm here," I said. "I'm going to start downstairs and work my way up to where she is."

"Will do, sir. I'm on it."

Fescoe stuck with me up the porch steps and past an ALS tech working on the demolished front door and threshold.

"Forced entry, of course," Fescoe went on. He blushed, probably because he'd stated the obvious. "Plus, there's a hatch open to the roof on the third floor. Looks like they might have left that way."

"They?"

"I'd say so — based on the amount of damage, whatever the hell happened in there. Never seen anything like it, sir. Listen, if there's anything else you need—"

"I'll let you know. Thank you. It's better if I do this alone. I concentrate better."

My reputation seems to attract hungry cops on big cases, which can have its advantages. Right now, though, I wanted to take in this scene for myself. Given the grim, steely-eyed look on the face of every tech I'd seen coming from the back of the house, I knew this was going to get harder in a hurry.

Turns out I didn't know the half of it. The murder of this Family was much worse than I'd thought.

Much, much worse.

Chapter 2

T
HEY WANTED TO scare somebody, I was thinking as I entered a brightly lit, warmly decorated alcove. But who? Not these dead people. Not this poor family that had been slaughtered for God only knew what reason.

The first floor told a grim and foreboding story that delineated the murder. Nearly every piece of furniture in the living and dining rooms had been either turned over or destroyed — or both. There were gaping holes punched in the walls, along with dozens of smaller ones. An antique glass chandelier lay scattered in splinters and shards all over a brightly colored Oriental rug.

The crime scene made no sense and, worse, had no direct precedent in my experience as a homicide detective.

A bullet-riddled Chesterfield couch and settee had been pushed up against the wall to make room in front of the fireplace. This was where the first three bodies were piled.

While it's safe to say that I've seen some horrendous shit in the line of duty, this scene, the monstrosity of it, stopped me instantly.

As promised, the stacked victims were the father, mother. and son on top, all lying faceup. There were blood streaks and stains on the nearby walls, furniture, and ceiling, and a pool had formed around the bodies. These poor people had been attacked with sharp cutting instruments of some sort, and there had been amputations.

"Jesus, Jesus," I muttered under my breath. It was a prayer, or a curse on the killers, or more likely both.

One of the printing techs answered under his breath, "Amen."

Neither of us was looking at the other, though. This was the kind of homicide scene you just gutted your way through, trying to get out of the house with a minute piece of your sanity intact.

The blood patterns around the room suggested the family members had been attacked separately, then dragged together in the middle.

Something had fueled whatever savage rage brought these killers to this and I agreed with Fescoe that there had been several killers. But what exactly had happened? What was the cause of the massacre? Drugs? Ritual? Psychosis? Group psychosis?

I stashed the random thoughts to consider at another time. Methods first, motive later.

I slowly circled the bodies and parts, picking my way around the pools of blood, stepping on dry parquet where I could. There didn't seem to be any cohesion to the cutting, or the killing for that matter.

The son's throat was slit; the father had a bullet wound to the forehead; and the mother's head was turned away at an unnatural angle, as if her neck had been broken.

I went full circle to see the mother's face. The angle was such that she seemed to be looking right up at me, almost hopeful, as if I could still save her.

I leaned in for a closer look at her and all of a sudden felt dizzy. My legs went weak. I couldn't believe what I was seeing.

Oh no! Oh my God, no!

I stepped back blindly, my foot hit a slick spot, and I fell. As I went down, I reached to break my fall. My gloved hand smeared deep red across the floor.

Ellie Randall's blood. Not Cox — Randall!

I knew her — at least I once had.

Long, long ago, Ellie had been my girlfriend when we'd been students at Georgetown. She had probably been my first love.

And now Ellie had been murdered, along with her family.

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