Cross the Line
by Jack Patterson
on Tour March 15 – May 31, 2013
Special Super Bowl Tour: Jan 28 – Feb 2, 2013
Genre: Thriller / Suspense
Published by: Hangman Books
Publication Date: 11/25/12
Number of Pages: 256
When veteran NFL quarterback Noah Larson finally guides his team to the Super Bowl, his dreams — and life — are dashed when his six-year-old son is kidnapped for a unique ransom: lose the game or his son dies. Seattle sportswriter Cal Murphy and photographer Kelly Mendoza get pulled into an FBI sting to help rescue Noah’s son in Mexico. But when everything falls apart, Cal and Kelly are left to save themselves, save Noah’s son, and save the Super Bowl.
Read an excerpt
“Journalism will kill you, but it will keep you alive while you’re at it.”
– Horace Greeley
NOAH LARSON WATCHED RAINDROPS cascading down the window over the kitchen sink, racing to a predictable end. Most drops would find their way to the bottom of the sill before joining others to form a small stream that spilled into a dormant flowerbed. A few lucky ones would take control of their fate, resisting the urge to be like all the others by clinging ever so tenuously to an open spot on the glass. But even they were susceptible to being washed away by a collision with just another raindrop or a blast of air. It was a depressing thought, but momentary when the reality of Noah’s life collided with it. Who had time to ponder the depths of existentialism when there was a Super Bowl to win?
In three hours, Noah was scheduled to join his teammates on a charter flight to Houston where the Seattle Seahawks would attempt to bring home the city’s first Lombardi Trophy. And it was going to happen—he just knew it. Nothing could stop destiny. Ever since he began playing peewee football, Noah’s talents were apparent to everyone, including himself. He had boxes of personal trophies, plaques and accolades stored in unmarked containers on a shelf in his garage to prove it. The only trophy Noah wanted to show off was the smooth silver one, hoisted above his head while confetti rained down from the rafters of Gillette Stadium. That destiny was only six days away.
“Dad, did you pack my lunch?” came the question from across the kitchen. Noah snapped back to the present.
“Sure, Jake. Got it right here.” The pro quarterback handed his six-year-old son a Spiderman lunch box. “I even remembered to put your favorite Capri Sun in there, too.”
“I thought you liked grape.”
“Daaaaad! You always mix up my favorite flavors. I like grape jelly but apple juice.”
“Well, we can fix that right now.”
Noah shuffled to the pantry and ripped open a six-pack of apple-flavored Capri Suns, grabbing one for Jake.
“Here you go, son. I’ll get it right next time—don’t you worry.”
“It’s OK, dad.” The first grader stuffed the bottle into the lunch box. “You know, I’m really gonna miss you this week.”
“I’m gonna miss you too, sport. But I’ll see you on Friday. You and mom are flying down and we’ll do something fun when I’m not busy.”
“I can’t wait! Can we go see the Dynamo’s stadium while we’re down there?”
“The Dynamo? Son, I’m playing in the Super Bowl on Sunday and you want to go see an empty soccer stadium?”
“Aww, dad. Soccer is cool, too. Maybe if you win, the Seahawks can have a parade just like the Sounders did when they won the MLS Cup.”
Noah tried not to let his son’s remark bother him. Jake loved soccer and preferred using his dad’s celebrity status to rub shoulders with the city’s star soccer players rather than visit the NFL locker room. What gnawed at Noah the most was the fact that Seattle threw a parade befitting of royalty when the city’s pro soccer team won the championship the previous fall. The cash-strapped city never dreamed another title might come so soon. But if the Seahawks won, forget budget restraints. Seattle would have a Super Bowl champion and it would celebrate.
Noah knew the city would go into debt in six days to throw a matching parade. He cared less about competing with the city’s other pro sports teams but more about the overall sense of despair hovering over Seahawk fans’ mentality. Doom and gloom held season tickets for the Seahawks—all 67,000 of them. Noah would change all that, maybe even turn his son into a die-hard football fan in the process.
“Don’t worry, son. You can ride with me in the parade next week after we come back home with a trophy.”
“Go, Seahawks! Beat the Dolphins!” Jake pumped his fist in the air and without reservation, sprinted across the kitchen to give his dad a high-five. They both laughed. Noah picked his son up and spun him around once. They shared a hug that ended with a tight squeeze.
“Don’t forget your rain coat, buddy. It looks like you’re going to need it.”
“Better hurry before you miss your bus.”
“Dad, you’re beginning to sound like mom.”
On cue, Ellen Larson wobbled down the stairs, trying to stay upright in her four-inch stiletto heels. Her naturally blonde hair clung smoothly to her head as her usually flowing locks were twisted into a tight bun and held in place with a diamond-studded hair stick. She wore the shimmering red dress well, which outlined the contours of her curvaceous figure. The silk shawl draped over her shoulders toned down the image of a woman that would put most men’s head on a swivel.
Noah drew out a long whistle and shook his head in delight as he watched his wife of eight years come down the staircase. Who cared if she wasn’t the most graceful woman at the moment? Noah certainly didn’t. And neither did Jake.
“Jake, don’t think you’re going to school without giving mommy a kiss.”
Jake didn’t wait for his mother to make it to the front door. He liked being the first kid to arrive at the bus stop and wasn’t going to let the obligatory kiss from his mom prevent him from achieving his daily goal.
“I love you, Mommy,” Jake planted a wet kiss on her cheek
“I’ll pick you up from school today and then we’ll go shopping. We need to get some warm clothes for our trip.”
“OK, Mom. See you then.”
Ellen went to plant a kiss on Jake’s cheek, but he dodged and resisted. If there was one thing that was sure to get a first-grade boy laughed at, it was having bright red lipstick on your cheek. Instead of getting her way, Ellen withdrew and blew a kiss. Jake’s face lit up with a toothy grin as he put on his raincoat, grabbed his book bag, and ran toward the door.
The large number of students living in the Larsons’ neighborhood who attended Westminster Prep necessitated a school bus. Jake’s walk to the bus stop for the city’s most prestigious prep school was less than a block. Noah and Ellen had no reservations about letting their son walk alone to the corner of this quiet, tree-lined street. Even on a day that registered as extra blustery and rainy by Seattle’s sopping wet standards.
Noah watched Jake pull the door shut and hustle down the steps. Once Jake reached the sidewalk, Noah could see Jake tossing his Sounders soccer ball in the air as he skipped toward the bus stop. Noah craned his neck to watch Jake until he disappeared from his field of view. Noah smiled and shook his head, proud of his little guy.
“Don’t you look nice,” Noah spun around and turned his gaze toward Ellen.
“Thanks, honey. I am going to miss you. I can’t wait for Sunday to get here and this season to be over with. It’s so much better when you lose and don’t make the playoffs.”
Noah moved closer to Ellen. He put his hands on her shoulders and looked her in the eyes.
“I don’t know how to respond to that. Wouldn’t you rather be married to a Super Bowl champion quarterback to impress all your socialite friends?”
“I don’t care about that—I just want you to be done with football so we can enjoy life together again. This football stuff just gets in the way all the time.”
“Well, we’ll see.”
Ellen suddenly grabbed Noah’s arms.
“Seriously? Are you going to retire from football?”
“Well, I’ve been playing football for a long time, living up to a lot of people’s expectations and doing what everyone else thinks I should do. I’m kind of tired of it. Besides, what better way to go out than on top and be the king of this city?”
Ellen began shaking Noah, giddy with excitement. She was careful not to jump up and down in her unstable shoes.
“I can’t believe this!”
“I was hoping you would react like this. Honestly, I’d like for this to be the last game I play and go out with a Super Bowl win. It’s time.”
“You’re not just going to win,” she said, poking Noah in the chest, “you’re going to destroy the Dolphins!”
She turned and headed back upstairs to finish primping for her shopping outing. Noah watched her put her fist in the air and mumble something about “no more football.” He knew retiring would make her happy—and it was time to make it official.
Noah glanced at his packed bags by the door. He then walked back to the kitchen and resumed raindrop watching. Noah stared out the window, grappling with the fact that he had uttered aloud the thought that had been tormenting him for the past six months: Did he have the nerve to walk away from the game that had consumed his entire life? But there was no going back now. Ellen had likely already committed to memory their entre conversation, word for word. And Noah knew she would make sure he kept his word. It was one of the things he liked best about being married to Ellen. It was also one of the worst.
Carlos Rivera nursed the cup of coffee in his right hand. It wasn’t cold yet but it was getting there quickly. Another minute or two and it would be undrinkable. Not that he minded. He thought the claim that Seattle was home to the best coffee in the United States was a chiste. It had been a week since he arrived in Seattle, and this was the fifth different brand of coffee he had tried. He remained unimpressed. However, he knew next month Seattle would be invaded by Buenisimo!, the best coffee south of the border. It would make his return trip more palatable.
Yet a chance to sample Seattle’s famous coffee was hardly the reason Rivera found himself far away from his family. Not that he had a choice. When Mr. Hernandez said, “Go to Seattle,” he went. No questions, no protests. Yet this job made Rivera sick. He told himself he was a professional and he could do this. It’s what he told himself every time that Mr. Hernandez required him to do something distasteful. Rivera hated dipping a rival gang member’s hand in acid. Neither did he care for shooting a man’s beloved dog just to make a point. But this assignment? This one was exceptionally cruel. It was so monstrous in its nature that Rivera wondered if Mr. Hernandez even had a conscience anymore—or a heart. Of course, Rivera could refuse. But he loved his family too much. He preferred ever so slightly this sordid existence over death, even if it was a half-step above. Choosing one over the other was about a 50-50 proposition. Rivera chose to live.
Rivera shook his partner, Juan Morales, who had just dozed off in the passenger’s seat.
“It’s time. Wake up.”
Morales rubbed his face and looked through the rain-speckled windshield at their target meandering down the sidewalk. The pulsing wipers swept away a handful of raindrops, gliding across the glass creating a clean space for more raindrops to gather.
“That’s him,” Rivera said.
He eased the car forward and stopped about 10 feet past the target.
With great precision and efficiency, Morales jumped out of the car and grabbed the confused boy. Jake resisted his abductor yet was only able to make one muted call for help. Rivera secured the boy’s arms and mouth; Morales snatched his legs. The boy squirmed and tried to kick free, but in less than two seconds, he was in the backseat of the Town Car wedged between the seat and Morales’ left knee. It was a fight the boy had no chance of winning. His muffled cries went unheard.
Morales grinned and patted Rivera on the back as they pulled away from the curb and headed down the street.
“We got him!” Morales said.
Rivera said nothing. He adjusted the mirror so he could only see Morales. Seeing the terror in the boy’s eyes as Morales was wrangling him in the street was too intensely personal for Rivera. With a six-year-old son of his own, Rivera could hardly stomach this task. But he couldn’t let this get personal. This was business, a business he had to conduct professionally and efficiently or his own family might end up victims of Mr. Hernandez.
Morales couldn’t stop grinning as he basked in his moment of triumph, albeit a sick one—a 28-year-old man overpowering a six-year-old boy 180 pounds his junior. He looked down at his catch, brooding over him with a gruff voice.
“Hola, Jakie boy.”
The first signs that I might like writing about sports — and be slightly competitive — appeared when my year two (or first grade) teacher, Mrs. Holland, asked my class to write and illustrate our day. Mine read like this: “The Red team beat the Blue team, 1 to nil. And I won.” The next 47 entries covered my exploits on the soccer pitch while growing up in Ipswich, England.
In South Carolina as a teenager, my dad told me that I could get paid to watch sports provided I could write about it. Sounded easy enough and by the time I was 16, I landed a job at my town’s daily newspaper and had a column on Major League Baseball players from our area. I also covered my first riot there at a sporting event — and it’s safe to say I was smitten with journalism.
After graduating from one of the best journalism schools in the country, I took a job as a sports editor in South Georgia and learned firsthand about the passion of high school sports in rural America. I thought I knew before, but I didn’t. This was another world.
I also had the opportunity to cover major sporting events like the Olympic Games, the World Series, the Super Bowl, and the Final Four. It was a thrill!
But nothing was as thrilling to me as uncovering the truth in investigative assignments. I once broke a story about a prominent southern football team’s NCAA violation — and found out the violating coach had committed suicide only a few months earlier. The story won a national writing award and stoked my desire to write about these issues. It made me realize that the sports world was just another fantastic backdrop for drama.
After writing non-fiction books with athletes, for athletes, and ghost writing for many others, I decided to enter the world of fiction writing. It had been something I wanted to do but never found the time. So, I made the time–and am now having a blast. I hope you enjoy reading my novels as much as I enjoy writing them!
Visit me on my website, I Am Jack Patterson, or on: