Triple Threat - James Patterson


James Patterson

Chapter 1

A late winter storm bore down on Washington, DC, that March morning, and more folks than usual were waiting in the cafeteria of St. Anthony of Padua Catholic School on Monroe Avenue in the northeast quadrant.

“If you need a jolt before you eat, coffee’s in those urns over there,” I called to the cafeteria line.

From behind a serving counter, my partner, John Sampson, said, “You want pancakes or eggs and sausage, you come see me first. Dry cereal, oatmeal, and toast at the end. Fruit, too.”

It was early, a quarter to seven, and we’d already seen twenty-five people come through the kitchen, mostly moms and kids from the surrounding neighborhood. By my count, another forty were waiting in the hallway, with more coming in from outside where the first flakes were falling.

It was all my ninety-something grandmother’s idea. She’d hit the DC Lottery Powerball the year before and wanted to make sure the unfortunate received some of her good fortune. She’d partnered with the church to see the hot-breakfast program started.

“Are there any doughnuts?” asked a little boy, who put me in mind of my younger son, Ali.

He was holding on to his mother, a devastatingly thin woman with rheumy eyes and a habit of scratching at her neck.

“No doughnuts today,” I said.

“What am I gonna eat?” he complained.

“Something that’s good for you for once,” his mom said. “Eggs, bacon, and toast. Not all that Cocoa Puffs sugar crap.”

I nodded. Mom looked like she was high on something, but she did know her nutrition.

“This sucks,” her son said. “I want a doughnut. I want two doughnuts!”

“Go on, there,” his mom said, and pushed him toward Sampson.

“Kind of overkill for a church cafeteria,” said the man who followed her. He was in his late twenties, and dressed in baggy jeans, Timberland boots, and a big gray snorkel jacket.

I realized he was talking to me and looked at him, puzzled.

“Bulletproof vest?” he said.

“Oh,” I said, and shrugged at the body armor beneath my shirt.

Sampson and I are major case detectives with the Washington, DC, Metropolitan Police Department. Immediately after our shift in the soup kitchen, we were joining a team taking down a drug gang operating in the streets around St. Anthony’s. Members of the gang had been known to take free breakfasts at the school from time to time, so we’d decided to armor up. Just in case.

I wasn’t telling him that, though. I couldn’t identify him as a known gangster, but he looked the part.

“I’m up for a PT test end of next week,” I said. “Got to get used to the weight since I’ll be running three miles with it on.”

“That vest make you hotter or colder today?”

“Warmer. Always.”

“I need one of them,” he said, and shivered. “I’m from Miami, you know? I must have been crazy to want to come on up here.”

“Why did you come up here?” I asked.

“School. I’m a freshman at Howard.”

“You’re not on the meal program?”

“Barely making my tuition.”

I saw him in a whole new light then, and was about to say so when gunshots rang out and people began to scream.

Chapter 2

Drawing my service pistol, I pushed against the fleeing crowd, hearing two more shots, and realizing they were coming from inside the kitchen behind Sampson. My partner had figured it out as well.

Sampson spun away from the eggs and bacon, drew his gun as I vaulted over the counter. We split and went to either side of the pair of swinging industrial kitchen doors. There were small portholes in both.

Ignoring the people still bolting from the cafeteria, I leaned forward and took a quick peek. Mixing bowls had spilled off the stainless-steel counters, throwing flour and eggs across the cement floor. Nothing moved, and I could detect no one inside.

Sampson took a longer look from the opposite angle. His face almost immediately screwed up.

“Two wounded,” he hissed. “The cook, Theresa, and a nun I’ve never seen before.”

“How bad?”

“There’s blood all over Theresa’s white apron. Looks like the nun’s hit in the leg. She’s sitting up against the stove with a big pool below her.”


Sampson took another look and said, “It’s a lot of blood.”

“Cover me,” I said. “I’m going in low to get them.”

Sampson nodded. I squatted down and threw my shoulder into the door, which swung away. Half expecting some unseen gunman to open fire, I rolled inside. I slid through the slurry of two dozen eggs and came to a stop on the floor between two prep counters.