After Washington, D.C., detective forensic psychologist and author Alex Cross (Morgan Freeman) loses control of a sting operation, resulting in the death of his partner, he retires from the force. He is drawn back to police work when Megan Rose (Mika Boorem), the daughter of a United States senator, is kidnapped from her exclusive private school by Gary Soneji (Michael Wincott), a computer science teacher. US Secret Service Special Agent Jezzie Flannigan (Monica Potter), held responsible for the breach in security, joins forces with Cross to find the missing girl.
Soneji contacts Cross by phone and alerts him to the fact one of Megan’s sneakers is in the detective’s mailbox, proving that Soneji is the kidnapper. Cross deduces that the man is obsessed with the 1932 Charles A. Lindbergh Jr. kidnapping and hopes to become as infamous as Bruno Hauptmann by committing a new “Crime of the Century”, which might be explored by Cross in one of his true crime books. Megan’s kidnapping proves to be only part of Soneji’s real plan: to kidnap Dimitri Starodubov (Anton Yelchin), the son of the Russian president, and guarantee greater infamy for himself.
After Cross and Flannigan foil his second kidnapping plot, a supposed call from the kidnapper demands that Cross deliver a ransom of $10 million in diamonds, by following an intricate maze of calls made to public phone booths scattered throughout the city. Following the ransom directions, Cross ultimately tosses the gems out the window of a rapidly moving Metro train to a figure standing by the tracks. Soneji later arrives at Flannigan’s home and confronts Cross after disabling Flannigan with a taser. Because Soneji has not reacted to Cross’s verbal comment about receiving the ransom amount (which was incorrect), the detective realizes that the kidnapper is unaware of the ransom demand and delivery. Soneji tries to leave with Flannigan, but Cross kills him.
Cross becomes suspicious and realizes that someone else discovered Soneji long before his plot came to fruition. After searching Flannigan’s personal computer, he finds enough evidence to prove that Flannigan and her fellow Secret Service agent Ben Devine (Billy Burke) used Soneji as a pawn in their own plot to collect a ransom for Megan. He tracks them down to a secluded farmhouse, where Flannigan has murdered Devine and is now intent on killing Megan. Cross stops Flannigan by shooting her in the heart, killing her. Cross kneels before the nervous Megan to introduce himself as a policeman and her parents’ friend. She asks if he can take her home to them, and he assures her that nothing would make him happier.