Deadly Cross by James Patterson

CHAPTER 1





DEVON MONROE TORE HIS EYES off the two dead bodies in the powder-blue Bentley convertible, top down, idling not twenty yards away, and glanced at his best friend.

“No movement,” Devon said.

“Lights out,” said Lever Ashford, nodding.

“I don’t know, Lever. This is high profile. Know what I mean?”

Lever said, “C’mon, Dev. It’s a once-in-a-lifetime, straight-up gift from God on top of everything else. We slip in. We slide out. See Waffles. No one knows.”

“I’m telling you, damn white folks get hung for less. Now let’s get out of here.”

Lever snarled, “You owe me, brother, or have you forgotten?”

The young men were both sixteen, African-American, and had their dark hoodies up. It was four fifteen in the morning, and they were standing in the shadows cast by the Harrison Charter High School in Garfield Heights in Southeast Washington, DC. The parking lot behind the school was dead silent except for their whispers.

Devon grimaced, struggled, but finally said, “Just don’t get prints on nothing.”

“Why we got them,” Lever said, smiling as he groped in his back pocket for two pairs of thin surgical gloves.

They put them on, scanned the area, and saw no movement anywhere around the school, not in the parking lot or on the track and football field.

“Forty-five seconds and we’re gone,” Devon said. “I’m serious.”

Lever bumped his fist. “Forty-five.”

They walked right up to the Bentley, Lever at the driver’s door, Devon going around to the other side. He skidded to a halt by the passenger door, feeling not fear but horror. “I don’t know if I can do this, man.”

“Do it! Take what’s rightfully yours, brother!”





CHAPTER 2





DEVON FELT LIKE HE MIGHT puke but took one step, leaned over, and reached into the back seat, not letting his shirt or pants touch the Bentley in any way.

He tried to keep his eyes off the woman sprawled there, half naked and dead. Lever, however, stared right into the eyes of the dead man lying next to her as he slipped his surgical-gloved hand into his tuxedo jacket. He looked at the man’s pants around his ankles, sniffed disdainfully.

“Freak bastard,” Lever said. “Serves you right, getting shot like this.”

On the other side of the Bentley, Devon smelled a coppery odor and it sickened him. Blood, he thought, trying not to breathe through his nose as he felt for the woman’s hands, found a big-rock ring, and worked it off her finger. The bracelets, two on the left, one behind the watch on the right, came off quicker than he’d expected.

Devon was about to call it good when he saw the pale glow of the pearl necklace around her neck. He tilted her head forward, found the clasp, slipped it off, and slid it into his pocket.

“Thirty-eight seconds,” Lever whispered from the other side of the car. “I’m done. Watch and wallet.”

“Right behind you,” Devon said. He tugged the pearls from the dead woman’s ears and laid her head back on the seat.

“Alley now,” Lever said, pivoting.

They heard scuffling in the gravel behind them. They took off at a sprint and dodged through a hole in the fence into a dark alley, where they stopped to look back. Someone was heading toward the car.

They ran the length of the alley, slowed to a walk across Alabama Avenue, then kept on at a faster pace toward Fort Circle Park. Forty minutes later, as the boys were reaching home, they heard sirens begin to wail back at the school.





CHAPTER 3





IT WAS SEVEN THIRTY IN the morning, and I was standing at the bottom of a granite cliff on Old Rag Mountain in Shenandoah National Park, looking dubiously up at the cracks in the wall and the ropes dangling beside them.

“Biggest one yet, Dad!” said my ten-year-old son, Ali, who stood to my right wearing a white rock helmet and a climbing harness over his T-shirt and shorts.

“You think?” his sister said. Jannie, my seventeen-year-old, was kneeling to my left, retying her climbing shoe.

The man beside her, who was going through a knapsack, said, “Definitely. It’s six stories and technically more challenging. And the rappel down’s a screamer.”

“It’s a screamer, Dad!” Ali said.

“No screamers,” I said. “As far as I’m concerned, if you’re screaming, you’re falling, so no screamers.”

“Sorry, Dr. Cross,” the man said, setting the bag down. “It just means you can take bigger leaps before you tighten up on the rack coming down.”

“I’ll be good, Tom, and locked into my rack, thank you,” I said.

Tom Mury grinned and clapped me on the back. “It’s just cool to see someone like you willing to go on rope.”

“Someone like me?” I said.

“Six two? Two twenty-five? Forties?”

“With all the hiking we’ve been doing, I’m two twenty.”

“It’s still impressive to see a guy your size going up.”

“He is at a disadvantage,” Ali said. “So is Jannie.”

“Nope,” my daughter said, standing. “I’m stronger and got longer arms and legs than you do.”

“Helps to be small and crafty if you want to be a human fly,” Ali said.