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Women's Murder Club [05] The 5th Horseman, страница 1

 

Women's Murder Club [05] The 5th Horseman
 

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Women's Murder Club [05] The 5th Horseman


  Copyright © 2006 by James Patterson

  All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced in any form or by any electronic or mechanical means, including information storage and retrieval systems, without permission in writing from the publisher, except by a reviewer who may quote brief passages in a review.

  Little, Brown and Company

  Hachette Book Group

  237 Park Avenue

  New York, NY 10017

  Visit our Web site at www.HachetteBookGroup.com.

  The Little, Brown and Company name and logo are trademarks of Hachette Book Group, Inc.

  First Edition: February 2006

  ISBN: 978-0-07595-6717-7

  Contents

  Copyright

  Prologue: THE MIDNIGHT HOUR

  Chapter 1

  Chapter 2

  Part One: MALICE AFORETHOUGHT

  Chapter 3

  Chapter 4

  Chapter 5

  Chapter 6

  Chapter 7

  Chapter 8

  Chapter 9

  Chapter 10

  Chapter 11

  Chapter 12

  Chapter 13

  Chapter 14

  Chapter 15

  Chapter 16

  Chapter 17

  Chapter 18

  Chapter 19

  Chapter 20

  Chapter 21

  Chapter 22

  Chapter 23

  Chapter 24

  Chapter 25

  Chapter 26

  Chapter 27

  Chapter 28

  Chapter 29

  Chapter 30

  Chapter 31

  Chapter 32

  Chapter 33

  Part Two: MURDER, MURDER EVERYWHERE

  Chapter 34

  Chapter 35

  Chapter 36

  Chapter 37

  Chapter 38

  Chapter 39

  Chapter 40

  Chapter 41

  Chapter 42

  Chapter 43

  Chapter 44

  Chapter 45

  Part Three: IN SEARCH OF CAR GIRLS

  Chapter 46

  Chapter 47

  Chapter 48

  Chapter 49

  Chapter 50

  Chapter 51

  Chapter 52

  Chapter 53

  Chapter 54

  Chapter 55

  Chapter 56

  Chapter 57

  Chapter 58

  Chapter 59

  Chapter 60

  Chapter 61

  Chapter 62

  Chapter 63

  Chapter 64

  Part Four: SHOW GIRL

  Chapter 65

  Chapter 66

  Chapter 67

  Chapter 68

  Chapter 69

  Chapter 70

  Chapter 71

  Chapter 72

  Chapter 73

  Chapter 74

  Chapter 75

  Chapter 76

  Chapter 77

  Chapter 78

  Chapter 79

  Part Five: ONE-STOP SHOPPING

  Chapter 80

  Chapter 81

  Chapter 82

  Chapter 83

  Chapter 84

  Chapter 85

  Chapter 86

  Chapter 87

  Chapter 88

  Chapter 89

  Chapter 90

  Chapter 91

  Chapter 92

  Chapter 93

  Chapter 94

  Chapter 95

  Chapter 96

  Chapter 97

  Chapter 98

  Chapter 99

  Chapter 100

  Chapter 101

  Part Six: THE VERDICT

  Chapter 102

  Chapter 103

  Chapter 104

  Chapter 105

  Chapter 106

  Chapter 107

  Chapter 108

  Chapter 109

  Chapter 110

  Chapter 111

  Chapter 112

  Chapter 113

  Chapter 114

  Chapter 115

  Chapter 116

  Chapter 117

  Chapter 118

  Chapter 119

  Chapter 120

  Chapter 121

  Chapter 122

  Chapter 123

  Chapter 124

  Chapter 125

  Chapter 126

  Chapter 127

  Chapter 128

  Chapter 129

  Chapter 130

  Chapter 131

  Chapter 132

  Chapter 133

  Chapter 134

  Chapter 135

  Chapter 136

  Chapter 137

  Chapter 138

  Epilogue: UNFINISHED BUSINESS

  Chapter 139

  About the Authors

  The Novels of James Patterson

  FEATURING ALEX CROSS

  Mary, Mary

  Pop Goes the Weasel

  London Bridges

  Cat & Mouse

  The Big Bad Wolf

  Jack & Jill

  Four Blind Mice

  Kiss the Girls

  Violets Are Blue

  Along Came a Spider

  Roses Are Red

  THE WOMEN’S MURDER CLUB

  4th of July (and Maxine Paetro)

  3rd Degree (and Andrew Gross)

  2nd Chance (and Andrew Gross)

  1st to Die

  OTHER BOOKS

  Lifeguard (and Andrew Gross)

  Maximum Ride

  Honeymoon (and Howard Roughan)

  SantaKid

  Sam’s Letters to Jennifer

  The Lake House

  The Jester (and Andrew Gross)

  The Beach House (and Peter de Jonge)

  Suzanne’s Diary for Nicholas

  Cradle and All

  Black Friday

  When the Wind Blows

  See How They Run

  Miracle on the 17th Green (and Peter de Jonge)

  Hide & Seek

  The Midnight Club

  Season of the Machete

  The Thomas Berryman Number

  For more information about James Patterson’s novels, visit www.jamespatterson.com.

  Our gratitude and thanks to Dr. Humphrey Germaniuk, ME, Trumbull County, Ohio, for bringing the art and science of forensic pathology to life; to top cop Captain Richard Conklin, Bureau of Investigations, Stamford, Connecticut, P.D.; and to our medical expert, Allen Ross, MD, of Montague, Massachusetts.

  We also wish to thank attorneys Philip R. Hoffman, Kathy Emmett, and Marty White for sharing with us their legal expertise.

  And special thanks to our excellent researchers, Lynn Colomello, Ellie Shurtleff, Yukie Kito, and the irreplaceable Mary Jordan.

  Prologue

  THE MIDNIGHT HOUR

  Chapter 1

  RAIN WAS DRUMMING HARD against the windows when the midnight-to-8:00 rounds began at San Francisco Municipal Hospital. Inside the ICU, thirty-year-old Jessie Falk was asleep in her hospital bed, floating on a Percocet lake of cool light.

  Jessie was having the most beautiful dream she’d had in years.

  She and the light of her life, three-year-old Claudia, were in Grandma’s backyard swimming pool. Claudie was in her birthday suit and bright-pink water wings, slapping the water, sunlight glinting off her blond curls.

  “Simon says, kiss like a butterfly, Claudie.”

  “Like this, Mommy?”

  Then the mother and daughter were shouting and laughing, twirling and falling down, singing out “wheeeeeee,” when without warning a sharp pain pierced Jessie’s chest.
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  She awoke with a scream—bolted upright—and clapped both of her hands to her breast.

  What was happening? What was that pain?

  Then Jessie realized that she was in a hospital—and that she was feeling sick again. She remembered coming here, the ambulance ride, a doctor telling her that she was going to be fine, not to worry.

  Falling, nearly fainting back to the mattress, Jessie fumbled for the call button at her side. Then the device slipped from her grasp and fell. It banged against the side of the bed with a muted clang.

  Oh, God, I can’t breathe. What’s happening? I can’t get my breath. It’s horrible. I’m not fine.

  Tossing her head from side to side, Jessie swept the darkened hospital room with her eyes. Then she seized on a figure at the far edge of her vision.

  She knew the face.

  “Oh, th-thank God,” she gasped. “Help me, please. It’s my heart.”

  She stretched out her hands, clutched feebly at the air, but the figure stayed in the shadows.

  “Please,” Jessie pleaded.

  The figure wouldn’t come forward, wouldn’t help. What was going on? This was a hospital. The person in the shadows worked here.

  Tiny black specks gathered in front of Jessie’s eyes as a crushing pain squeezed the air from her chest. Suddenly her vision tunneled to a pinprick of white light.

  “Please help me. I think I’m —”

  “Yes,” said the figure in the shadows, “you are dying, Jessie. It’s beautiful to watch you cross over.”

  Chapter 2

  JESSIE’S HANDS FLUTTERED like a tiny bird’s wings beating against the sheets. Then they were very still. Jessie was gone.

  The Night Walker came forward and bent low over the hospital bed. The young woman’s skin was mottled and bluish, clammy to the touch, her pupils fixed. She had no pulse. No vital signs. Where was she now? Heaven, hell, nowhere at all?

  The silhouetted figure retrieved the fallen call device, then tugged the blankets into place, straightened the young woman’s blond hair and the collar of her gown, and blotted the spittle from her lips with a tissue.

  Nimble fingers lifted the framed photo beside the phone on the bedside table. She’d been so pretty, this young mother holding her baby. Claudia. That was the daughter’s name, wasn’t it?

  The Night Walker put the picture down, closed the patient’s eyes, and placed what looked to be small brass coins, smaller than dimes, on each of Jessie Falk’s eyelids.

  The small disks were embossed with a caduceus—two serpents entwined around a winged staff, the symbol of the medical profession.

  A whispered good-bye blended with the sibilance of tires speeding over the wet pavement five stories below on Pine Street.

  “Good night, princess.”

  Part One

  MALICE AFORETHOUGHT

  Chapter 3

  I WAS AT MY DESK sifting through a mound of case files, eighteen open homicides to be exact, when Yuki Castellano, attorney-at-law, called on my private line.

  “My mom wants to take us to lunch at the Armani Café,” said the newest member of the Women’s Murder Club. “You’ve gotta meet her, Lindsay. She can charm the skin off a snake, and I mean that in the nicest possible way.”

  Let me see; what should I choose? Cold coffee and tuna salad in my office? Or a tasty Mediterranean luncheon, say, carpaccio over arugula with thin shavings of Parmesan and a glass of Merlot, with Yuki and her snake-charming mom?

  I neatened the stack of folders, told our squad assistant, Brenda, that I’d be back in a couple of hours, and left the Hall of Justice with no need to be back until the staff meeting at 3:00.

  The bright September day had broken a rainy streak in the weather and was one of the last glory days before the dank autumn chill would close in on San Francisco.

  It was a joy to be outside.

  I met Yuki and her mother, Keiko, in front of Saks in the upscale Union Square shopping district out by the Golden Gate Panhandle. Soon we were chattering away as the three of us headed up Maiden Lane toward Grant Avenue.

  “You girls, too modern,” Keiko said. She was as cute as a bird, tiny, perfectly dressed and coiffed, shopping bags dangling from the crooks of her arms. “No man want woman who too independent,” she told us.

  “Mommm,” Yuki wailed. “Give it a rest, willya? This is the twenty-first century. This is America.”

  “Look at you, Lindsay,” Keiko said, ignoring Yuki, poking me under the arm. “You’re packing!”

  Yuki and I both whooped, our shouts of laughter nearly drowning out Keiko’s protestation that “no man want a woman with a gun.”

  I wiped my eyes with the back of my hand as we stopped and waited for the light to change.

  “I do have a boyfriend,” I said.

  “Doesn’t she though,” Yuki said, nearly bursting into a song about my beau. “Joe is a very handsome Italian guy. Like Dad. And he’s got a big-deal government job. Homeland Security.”

  “He make you laugh?” Keiko asked, pointedly ignoring Joe’s credentials.

  “Uh-huh. Sometimes we laugh ourselves into fits.”

  “He treat you nice?”

  “He treats me sooooo nice,” I said with a grin.

  Keiko nodded approvingly. “I know that smile,” she said. “You find a man with a slow hands.”

  Again Yuki and I burst into hoots of laughter, and from the sparkle in Keiko’s eyes, I could tell that she was enjoying her role as Mama Interrogator.

  “When you get a ring from this Joe?”

  That’s when I blushed. Keiko had nailed it with a well-manicured finger. Joe lived in Washington, DC. I didn’t. Couldn’t. I didn’t know where our relationship was going.

  “We’re not at the ring stage yet,” I told her.

  “You love this Joe?”

  “Big-time,” I confessed.

  “He love you?”

  Yuki’s mom was looking up at me with amusement, when her features froze as if she’d turned to stone. Her lively eyes glazed over, rolled back, and her knees gave way.

  I reached out to grab her, but I was too late.

  Keiko dropped to the pavement with a moan that made my heart buck. I couldn’t believe what had happened, and I couldn’t understand it. Had Keiko suffered a stroke?

  Yuki screamed, then crouched beside her mother, slapping her cheeks, crying out, “Mommy, Mommy, wake up.”

  “Yuki, let me in there for a second. Keiko. Keiko, can you hear me?”

  My heart was thudding hard as I placed my fingers to Keiko’s carotid artery, tracked her pulse against the second hand of my watch.

  She was breathing, but her pulse was so weak, I could barely feel it.

  I grabbed the Nextel at my waist and called Dispatch.

  “Lieutenant Boxer, badge number twenty-seven twenty-one,” I barked into the phone. “Get an EMS unit to Maiden Lane and Grant. Make it now!”

  Chapter 4

  SAN FRANCISCO MUNICIPAL HOSPITAL is huge—like a city in itself. Once a public hospital, it had been privatized a few years back, but it still took more than its share of indigents and overflow from other hospitals, treating in excess of a hundred thousand patients a year.

  At that moment, Keiko Castellano was inside one of the curtained stalls that ringed the perimeter of the vast, frantic emergency room.

  As I sat beside Yuki in the waiting room, I could feel her terror and fear for her mother’s life.

  And I flashed on the last time I’d been inside an emergency room. I remembered the doctors’ ghostlike hands touching my body, the loud throbbing of my heart, and wondering if I was going to get out alive.

  I’d been off duty that night but went on a stakeout anyway, not thinking that one minute it would be a routine job, and the next minute I’d be down. The same was true for my friend and former partner, Inspector Warren Jacobi. We’d both taken two slugs in that desolate alley. He was unconscious and I was bleeding out on the street when somehow I found the stren
gth to return fire.

  My aim had been good, maybe even too good.

  It’s a sad sign of the times that public sympathy favors civilians who’ve been shot by police over police who’ve been shot by civilians. I was sued by the family of the so-called victims and I could have lost everything.

  I hardly knew Yuki then.

  But Yuki Castellano was the smart, passionate, and supertalented young lawyer who had come through for me when I really needed her. I would always be grateful.

  I turned to Yuki now as she spoke, her voice choppy with agitation, her face corrugated with worry.

  “This makes no sense, Lindsay. You saw her. She’s only fifty-five, for God’s sake. She’s a freaking life force. What’s going on? Why don’t they tell me something? Or at least let me see her?”

  I had no answer, but like Yuki, I was out of patience.

  Where the hell was the doctor?

  This was unconscionable. Not acceptable in any way.

  What was taking so long?

  I was gathering myself to walk into the ER and demand some answers, when a doctor finally strode into the waiting room. He looked around, then called Yuki’s name.

  Chapter 5

  THE NAME TAG over the pocket of his white coat read “Dennis Garza, MD, Dir. Emergency Services.”

  I couldn’t help noticing that Garza was a handsome man—midforties, six foot one, 180 or so, broad-shouldered, and in good shape. His Spanish lineage showed in his black eyes and the thick black hair that fell across his forehead.

  But what struck me most was the tension in the doctor’s body, his rigid stance and the way he repeatedly, impatiently, snapped the wristband of his Rolex, as if to say, I’m a busy man. An important, busy man. Let’s get on with it. I don’t know why, but I didn’t like him.

 
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