Cross Kill (Alex Cross, #24.4) by James Patterson Read Online (FREE)
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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?”
“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.”