Target: Alex Cross (Alex Cross #26) - James Patterson Page 0,1

and sixty-eight days.

Seventy-two hours after celebrating her first year in office, President Grant had been meeting with her military advisers when she suddenly complained of dizziness and seemed confused, then fell to the floor behind her desk. She died within moments.

Her doctors were stunned. The late president had been in top physical condition, and she had passed a rigorous physical exam with flying colors not two months before.

But the pathologists at Bethesda Naval Hospital said that Grant had succumbed to a fast-growing tumor that had enveloped her internal carotid artery, essentially interrupting the blood flow to most of her brain. No one could have saved her.

So there was a real sense of shared loss and broken hope the morning of her funeral. As her cortege approached us, the mourners on both sides of Constitution Avenue turned sadly quiet.

Damon helped Nana Mama to her feet. Bree and I came to attention, and I had to fight against the emotion that built in my throat as Grant’s coffin rolled by and the black riderless horse pranced and reared in the bitter-cold air.

But what really hit me was the sight of the limousine that trailed the black horse. I couldn’t see them, but I knew that the late president’s husband and daughters were inside.

I remembered how I’d felt when my first wife died tragically, leaving me lost, angry, and alone with a baby boy to care for. Those were the worst days of my life, when I thought I’d never be right again.

My heart broke for the First Family as they passed. I blinked back tears watching the drum corps march by, eyes straight ahead, the cadence of the funeral beat never wavering.

“Can we go now?” Ali asked. “I can’t feel my knees.”

“Not before we all hold hands and say a prayer for our country and that good woman’s soul,” Nana Mama said, and she held her mittened hands out to us.

Part One




SNOW FELL AS Sean Lawlor slipped into a narrow alley in Georgetown. A ruddy-skinned man with a salt-and-pepper beard and unruly hair, Lawlor was dressed in dark clothes, gloves, and a snap-brim cap with the earflaps down. As he moved deeper into the alley, he knew he was leaving tracks in the snow but didn’t care.

Forecasts were calling for six inches before dawn, and he planned to be finished and gone long before the storm ended.

Lawlor padded to the rear gate of a beautiful old brick town house that faced Thirty-Fifth Street. After a long, slow look around, he climbed the gate and crossed a small terrace to a door he’d picked earlier in the evening after bypassing the alarm system.

It was four fifteen in the morning. He had half an hour at most.

Lawlor shut the door quietly behind him. He stood a moment, listening intently. Hearing nothing to disturb him, he brushed off snow while waiting for his eyes to adjust. Then he put blue surgical booties over his boots and walked down a hallway to the kitchen.

He pushed aside a chair, which made a squeaking noise on the tile floor. It didn’t matter. There was no one home. The owners spent their winters in Palm Beach.

Lawlor went to a door on the other side of the kitchen, opened it, and stepped down onto a set of steep wooden stairs. Shutting the door left him in inky darkness. He closed his eyes and flipped on the light.

After waiting again for his vision to adjust, Lawlor climbed down the stairs into a small, musty basement piled with boxes and old furniture. He ignored all of it and went to a workbench with tools hanging from a pegboard on the wall.

He shrugged off the knapsack he carried, traded his leather gloves for latex ones, unzipped the bag, and retrieved four bubble-wrapped packages, which he laid on the bench.

Lawlor cut off the bubble wrap and stowed the pieces in the pack before turning to admire the VooDoo Innovations Ultra Lite barreled action in 5.56x45mm NATO. A work of art, he thought.

He fitted the barreled action to a five-ounce minimalist rifle stock by Ace Precision and then screwed a SureFire Genesis sound suppressor onto the threaded crown of the barrel. Picking up the Zeus 640 optical sight, Lawlor thought, A thing of beauty .

He clipped the sight neatly into place. Overall, he was pleased with how the gun had turned out. He had ordered the components from U.S. internet wholesalers and had them shipped to the same nonexistent person at four separate