Women's Murder Club  7th Heaven, страница 1
Copyright © 2008 by James Patterson
All rights reserved. Except as permitted under the U.S. Copyright Act of 1976, no part of this publication may be reproduced, distributed, or transmitted in any form or by any means, or stored in a database or retrieval system, without the prior written permission of the publisher.
Little, Brown and Company
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First eBook Edition: February 2008
The characters and events in this book are fictitious. Any similarity to real persons, living or dead, is coincidental and not intended by the author.
HABEAS CORPUS (Produce the Body)
James Patterson’s Women’s Murder Club Series
7th Heaven (coauthor Maxine Paetro)
The 6th Target (Maxine Paetro)
The 5th Horseman (Maxine Paetro)
4th of July (Maxine Paetro)
3rd Degree (Andrew Gross)
2nd Chance (Andrew Gross)
1st to Die
The Novels of James Patterson
FEATURING ALEX CROSS
The Big Bad Wolf
Four Blind Mice
Violets Are Blue
Roses Are Red
Pop Goes the Weasel
Cat & Mouse
Jack & Jill
Kiss the Girls
Along Came a Spider
THE JAMES PATTERSON PAGETURNERS
The Dangerous Days of Daniel X
The Final Warning: A Maximum Ride Novel
Maximum Ride: Saving the World and Other Extreme Sports
Maximum Ride: School’s Out — Forever
Maximum Ride: The Angel Experiment
You’ve Been Warned (coauthor Howard Roughan)
The Quickie (Michael Ledwidge)
Step on a Crack (Michael Ledwidge)
Judge & Jury (Andrew Gross)
Beach Road (Peter de Jonge)
Lifeguard (Andrew Gross)
Honeymoon (Howard Roughan)
Sam’s Letters to Jennifer
The Lake House
The Jester (Andrew Gross)
The Beach House (Peter de Jonge)
Suzanne’s Diary for Nicholas
Cradle and All
When the Wind Blows
See How They Run
Miracle on the 17th Green (Peter de Jonge)
Hide & Seek
The Midnight Club
Black Friday (originally published as Black Market)
See How They Run (originally published as The Jericho Commandment)
Season of the Machete
The Thomas Berryman Number
For more information about James Patterson’s novels, visit www.jamespatterson.com.
To our spouses and children: Susie and Jack, John and Brendan
Our thanks and gratitude to these top professionals, who were so generous with their time and expertise: Dr. Humphrey Germaniuk, Captain Richard Conklin, Chuck Hanni, Dr. Allen Ross, Philip R. Hoffman, Melody Fujimori, Mickey Sherman, and Dr. Maria Paige.
And special thanks to our excellent researchers, Ellie Shurtleff, Don MacBain, Lynn Colomello, and Margaret Ross, and to Mary Jordan, who keeps it all together.
THE CHRISTMAS SONG
TINY LIGHTS WINKED on the Douglas fir standing tall and full in front of the picture window. Swags of Christmas greenery and dozens of cards decked the well-appointed living room, and apple logs crackled in the fireplace, scenting the air as they burned.
A digitized Bing Crosby crooned “The Christmas Song.”
“Chestnuts roasting on an open fire. Jack Frost nipping at your nose . . .”
It meant that the boys didn’t want to be identified, that they were planning to let them go. Please, God, please let us live and I’ll serve you all the days of my life.
Jablonsky watched the two shapes moving around the tree, knew that the gun was in Hawk’s waistband. He heard wrapping paper tear, saw the one called Pidge dangling a bow for the new kitten.
They’d said they weren’t going to hurt them.
They said this was only a robbery.
Jablonsky had memorized their faces well enough to describe to a police sketch artist, which he would be doing as soon as they got the hell out of his home.
Both boys looked as though they’d stepped from the pages of a Ralph Lauren ad.
Hawk. Clean-cut. Well-spoken. Blond, with side-parted hair. Pidge, bigger. Probably six two. Long brown hair. Strong as a horse. Meaty hands. Ivy League types. Both of them.
Maybe there really was some goodness in them.
As Jablonsky watched, the blond one, Hawk, walked over to the bookshelf, dragged his long fingers across the spines of the books, calling out titles, his voice warm, as though he were a friend of the family.
He said to Henry Jablonsky, “Wow, Mr. J., you’ve got Fahrenheit 451. This is a classic.”
Hawk pulled the book from the shelf, opened it to the first page. Then he stooped down to where Jablonsky was hog-tied on the floor with a sock in his mouth.
“You can’t beat Bradbury for an opening,” Hawk said. And then he read aloud with a clear, dramatic voice.
“ ‘It was a pleasure to burn. It was a special pleasure to see things eaten, to see things blackened and changed.’ ”
As Hawk read, Pidge hauled a large package out from under the tree. It was wrapped in gold foil, tied with gold ribbon. Something Peggy had always wanted and had waited for, for years.
“To Peggy, from Santa,” Pidge read from the gift tag. He sliced through the wrappings with a knife.
He had a knife!
Pidge opened the box, peeled back the layers of tissue.
“A Birkin bag, Peggy. Santa brought you a nine-thousand-dollar purse! I’d call that a no, Peg. A definite no.”
Pidge reached for another wrapped gift, shook the box, while Hawk turned his attention to Peggy Jablonsky. Peggy pleaded with Hawk, her actual words muffled by the wad of sock in her mouth. It broke Henry’s heavy heart to see how hard she tried to communicate with her eyes.
Hawk reached out and stroked Peggy’s baby-blond hair, then patted her damp cheek. “We’re going to open all your presents now, Mrs. J. Yours too, Mr. J.,” he said. “Then we’ll decide if we’re going to let you live.”
HENRY JABLONSKY’S STOMACH HEAVED. He gagged against the thick wool of the sock, pulled against his restraints, smelled the sour odor of urine. Heat puddled under his clothes. Christ. He’d wet himself. But it didn’t matter. The only thing that mattered was to get out alive.
He couldn’t move. He couldn’t speak. But he could reason.
What could he do?
Jablonsky looked around from his place on the floor, took in the fire poker only yards away. He fixed his vision on that poker.
“Mrs. J.,” Pidge called out to Peggy, shaking a small turquoise box. “This is from Henry. A Peretti necklace. Very nice. What? You have something to say?”
Pidge went over to Peggy Jablonsky and took the sock out of her mouth.
“You don’t really know Dougie, do you?” she said.
“Dougie who?” Pidge laughed.
“Don’t hurt us —”
“No, no, Mrs. J.,” Pidge said, stuffing the sock back into his captive’s mouth. “No don’ts. This is our game. Our rules.”
The kitten pounced into the heap of wrapping paper as the gifts were opened; the diamond earrings, the Hermès tie, and the Jensen salad tongs, Jablonsky praying that they would just take the stuff and leave. Then he heard Pidge speak to Hawk, his voice more subdued than before, so that Jablonsky had to strain to hear over the blood pounding in his ears.
“Well? Guilty or not guilty?” Pidge asked.
Hawk’s voice was thoughtful. “The J.’s are living well, and if that’s the best revenge . . .”
“You’re kidding me, dude. That’s totally bogus.”
Pidge stepped over the pillowcase filled with the contents of the Jablonskys’ safe. He spread the Bradbury book open on the lamp table with the span of his hand, then picked up a pen and carefully printed on the title page.
Pidge read it back. “Sic erat in fatis, man. It is fated. Get the kit-cat and let’s go.”
Hawk bent over, said, “Sorry, dude. Mrs. Dude.” He took the sock out of Jablonsky’s mouth. “Say good-bye to Peggy.”
Henry Jablonsky’s mind scrambled. What? What was happening? And then he realized. He could speak! He screamed “Pegg-yyyyy” as the Christmas tree bloomed with a bright yellow glare, then went up in a great exhalation of flame.
Heat rose and the skin on Henry Jablonsky’s cheeks dried like paper. Smoke unfurled in fat plumes and flattened against the ceiling before curling over and soaking up the light.
“Don’t leave us!”
He saw the flames climbing the curtains, heard his dear love’s muffled screams as the front door slammed shut.
WE SAT IN A CIRCLE around the fire pit behind our rental cottage near the spectacular Point Reyes National Seashore, an hour north of San Francisco.
“Lindsay, hold out your glass,” Cindy said.
I tasted the margarita — it was good. Yuki stirred the oysters on the grill. My border collie, Sweet Martha, sighed and crossed her paws in front of her, and firelight made flickering patterns on our faces as the sun set over the Pacific.
“It was one of my first cases in the ME’s office,” Claire was saying. “And so I was ‘it.’ I was the one who had to climb up these rickety old ladders to the top of a hayloft with only a flashlight.”
Yuki coughed as the tequila went down her windpipe, gasping for breath as Cindy and I yelled at her in unison, “Sip it!”
Claire thumped Yuki’s back and continued.
“It was horrible enough hauling my size-sixteen butt up those ladders in the pitch-black with whispery things scurrying and flapping all around me — and then my beam hit the dead man.
“His feet were hovering above the hay, and when I lit him up, I swear to God he looked like he was levitating. Eyes and tongue bugged out, like a freakin’ ghoul.”
“No way.” Yuki laughed. She was wearing pajama bottoms and a Boalt Law sweatshirt, her hair in a ponytail, already drunk on her one margarita, looking more like a college kid than a woman nearing thirty.
“I yelled down into the dark well of that barn,” Claire said, “got two big old boys to come up and cut the body down from the rafters and put Mr. Levitation into a body bag.”