Truth or Die(9)
Author:James Patterson


    It was an address, all right. Downtown on the West Side. She’d also written 1701 below it. Was that an apartment number?

    I turned on my laptop, grabbing my keys and throwing on a baseball cap while waiting for it to power up. Quickly, I Googled the address.

    The first result was the only one I needed to see. This wasn’t someone’s home. Claire had been heading to the Lucinda Hotel, room 1701.

    Now I was, too.





    CHAPTER 9


    AN INTERRUPTION.

    That was what Owen Lewis was waiting for in room 1701 of the Lucinda Hotel. The tiny camera, no bigger than a lipstick cylinder, was taped to the exit sign above the entrance to the stairwell, wirelessly transmitting to his laptop the same image of the long, empty hallway outside his door. It was monotony in black and white. A continuous loop of stillness and silence, over and over. Uninterrupted.

    For anyone else, it would’ve been the most boring movie of the century. To Owen, it was easily the scariest. Especially how it might end.

    She said she’d be here in twenty minutes. That was hours ago. Did they get to her? Am I next?

    He’d thought about leaving town, but it was already so late. There were no buses, trains, or planes he could catch at this hour, and he knew you had to be twenty-five to rent a car. His driver’s license couldn’t get him a beer, let alone a Buick.

    All in all, the only real option was a taxi, but that didn’t feel like a good idea, for some reason. Just his gut instinct.

    No, he would wait it out until morning, stick with his plan.

    It was a good plan, extremely well thought out, with the highest attention to every detail. Of course, when you’re sporting an IQ that approaches the boiling point of water, anticipation is your stock in trade. You see the future before others do. You live it, too.

    “The Boy Genius!” declared his hometown paper back in Amherst, New Hampshire, in a front-page story when Owen was only four. By then, he had memorized the periodic table, could read and write in three languages, and was doing complex algebra. The photo accompanying the article showed him shaking hands with Steve Jobs at a “Pioneers of Tomorrow” conference at Apple’s headquarters in Cupertino.

    For an entire year after that, Owen wore only a black mock turtleneck everywhere he went.

    Elementary school was finished at age six, junior high at eight, and then high school when he was eleven. At fourteen, he was the youngest ever to graduate from Cal Berkeley, earning summa cum laude and salutatorian honors. He would’ve been valedictorian if it hadn’t been for a B+ in comparative Russian literature. Even geniuses have their blind spots.

    Next up were combined MD and PhD degrees from Harvard Medical School and MIT at age seventeen, after which Owen spent nearly two years at Eidgenössische Technische Hochschule Zürich, aka the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich, studying what had become his true passion: artificial neural networks.

    That was when the two men first approached him, one night as he was leaving the library. They were Americans.

    “How would you like to help save the world?” one asked.

    Owen laughed, not taking him seriously at first. “Only if I get to wear a cape,” he said.

    A predilection for sarcasm commensurate with sapience, read the extensive psych profile of Owen that the two men had already seen.

    “No, I’m afraid there’s no cape or even a skintight suit,” said the other man. “However, you will get to be a part of the digital age’s equivalent of the Manhattan Project.”

    Owen liked the sound of that. Loved it, to be more precise. It was his chance to make history. And who doesn’t want to do that?

    But that was then.

    Now, less than a year later, here he was hiding out in a cramped hotel room—in Manhattan, no less—hoping against hope that he’d live to see another sunrise.

    Turned out, Owen Lewis had the one problem he never thought he’d have. Not in a million years. Or certainly, at least, not before his twenty-first birthday.

    It was why they wanted to kill him, the Boy Genius.

    He knew too much.





    CHAPTER 10


    WITHOUT ONCE taking his eyes off his scuffed-up laptop and the live feed from the hallway, Owen bit off another triangle of the twelve-dollar Toblerone from his minibar and dialed Claire Parker’s cell for a third time. And for the third time the call went straight to voice mail.

    Something was wrong. He just didn’t know what. There were a few plausible explanations as to why she hadn’t shown up at his room, ranging from the relatively harmless to the absolute worst-case scenario. He could speculate all he wanted, but that was all it would be. Speculation. The important thing now was whether or not she was the only one who knew his location.

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