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Women's Murder Club [04] 4th of July
 

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Women's Murder Club [04] 4th of July


  Copyright © 2005 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 USA

  237 Park Avenue, New York, NY 10020

  Visit our Web site at www.hachettebookgroupusa.com

  First eBook Edition: May 2005

  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.

  ISBN: 978-0-7595-1358-7

  Contents

  Part One: Nobody Cares

  Chapter 1

  Chapter 2

  Chapter 3

  Chapter 4

  Chapter 5

  Chapter 6

  Chapter 7

  Chapter 8

  Part Two: Unscheduled Vacation Time

  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

  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: Back in the Saddle Again

  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

  Part Four: Trials and Tribulation

  Chapter 62

  Chapter 63

  Chapter 64

  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

  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

  Chapter 102

  Chapter 103

  Chapter 104

  Chapter 105

  Part Five: The Cat’s Meow

  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

  Chapter 139

  Chapter 140

  Chapter 141

  Chapter 142

  Chapter 143

  Chapter 144

  Chapter 145

  Epilogue

  Chapter 146

  About the Authors

  The Novels of James Patterson

  FEATURING ALEX CROSS

  London Bridges

  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 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

  Maximum Ride

  Honeymoon

  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 thanks and gratitude to top cop Captain Richard Conklin, Bureau of Investigations, Stamford, Connecticut, Police Department; and Dr. Humphrey Germaniuk, medical examiner of Trumbell County, Ohio, a great teacher and noted practitioner of forensic pathology. And special thanks to Mickey Sherman, criminal defense attorney extraordinaire, for his very wise counsel.

  We are also grateful to Lynn Colomello, Ellie Shurtleff, Linda Guynup Dewey, and Yukie Kito for their excellent research assistance on the ground and on the Web.

  Part One

  Nobody Cares

  Chapter 1

  IT WAS JUST BEFORE 4:00 a.m. on a weekday. My mind was racing even before Jacobi nosed our car up in front of the Lorenzo, a grungy rent-by-the-hour “tourist hotel” on a block in San Francisco’s Tenderloin District that’s so forbidding even the sun won’t cross the street.

  Three black-and-whites were at the curb, and Conklin, the first officer at the scene, was taping off the area. So was another officer, Les Arou.

  “What have we got?” I asked Conklin and Arou.

  “White male, Lieutenant. Late teens, bug-eyed and done to a turn,” Conklin told me. “Room twenty-one. No signs of forced entry. Vic’s in the bathtub, just like the last one.”

  The stink of piss and vomit washed over us as Jacobi and I entered the hotel. No bellhops in this place. No elevators or room service, either. Night people faded
back into the shadows, except for one gray-skinned young prostitute who pulled Jacobi aside.

  “Give me twenty dollars,” I heard her say. “I got a license plate.”

  Jacobi peeled off a ten in exchange for a slip of paper, then turned to the desk clerk and asked him about the victim: Did he have a roommate, a credit card, a habit?

  I stepped around a junkie in the stairwell and climbed to the second floor. The door to room 21 was open, and a rookie was standing guard at the doorway.

  “Evening, Lieutenant Boxer.”

  “It’s morning, Keresty.”

  “Yes, ma’am,” he said, logging me in, turning his clipboard to collect my signature.

  It was darker inside the twelve-by-twelve-foot room than it was in the hallway. The fuse had blown, and thin curtains hung like wraiths in front of the streetlit windows. I was working the puzzle, trying to figure out what was evidence, what was not, trying not to step on anything. There was too damned much of everything and too little light.

  I flicked my flashlight beam over the crack vials on the floor, the mattress stained with old blood, the rank piles of garbage and clothing everywhere. There was a kitchenette of sorts in the corner, the hot plate still warm, drug paraphernalia in the sink.

  The air in the bathroom was thick, almost soupy. I swept my light along the extension cord that snaked from the socket by the sink, past the clogged toilet bowl to the bathtub.

  My guts clenched as I caught the dead boy in my beam. He was naked, a skinny blond with a hairless chest, half sitting up in the tub, eyes bulging, foam at his lips and nostrils. The electric cord ended at an old-fashioned two-slice toaster that glinted up through the bathwater.

  “Shit,” I said as Jacobi entered the bathroom. “Here we go again.”

  “He’s toast, all right,” said Jacobi.

  As commanding officer of the Homicide detail, I wasn’t supposed to do hands-on detective work anymore. But at times like this, I just couldn’t stay away.

  Another kid had been electrocuted, but why? Was he a random victim of violence or was it personal? In my mind’s eye, I saw the boy flailing in pain as the juice shot through him and shut his heart down.

  The standing water on the cracked tile floor was creeping up the legs of my trousers. I lifted a foot and toed the bathroom door closed, knowing full well what I was going to see. The door whined with the nasal squeal of hinges that had probably never been oiled.

  Two words were spray-painted on the door. For the second time in a couple of weeks, I wondered what the hell they meant.

  “NOBODY CARES.”

  Chapter 2

  IT LOOKED LIKE A particularly grisly suicide, except that the spray paint can was nowhere around. I heard Charlie Clapper and his CSU team arrive and begin to unpack forensic equipment in the outer room. I stood aside as the photographer took his shots of the victim, then I yanked the extension cord out of the wall.

  Charlie changed the fuse. “Thank you, Jesus,” he said as light flooded the god-awful place.

  I was rifling through the victim’s clothes, finding not a scrap of ID, when Claire Washburn, my closest friend and San Francisco’s chief medical examiner, walked through the door.

  “It’s pretty nasty,” I told Claire as we went into the bathroom. Claire is a center of warmth in my life, more of a sister to me than my own. “I’ve been having an impulse.”

  “To do what?” Claire asked me mildly.

  I swallowed hard, forcing down the gorge that kept rising in my throat. I’d gotten used to a lot of things, but I would never get used to the murder of children.

  “I just want to reach in and pull out the stopper.”

  The victim looked even more stricken in the bright light. Claire crouched beside the tub, squeezing her size-sixteen body into a size-six space.

  “Pulmonary edema,” she said of the pink foam in the dead boy’s nasal and oral orifices. She traced the faint bruising on the lips, around the eyes. “He was tuned up a bit before they threw the switch on him.”

  I pointed to the vertical gash on his cheekbone. “What do you make of that?”

  “My guess? It’s going to match the push-down lever on the toaster. Looks like they clocked this child with that Sunbeam before they chucked it into the tub.”

  The boy’s hand was resting on the bathtub’s rim. Claire lifted it tenderly, turned it over. “No rigor. Body’s still warm and lividity is blanching. He’s been dead less than twelve hours, probably less than six. No visible track marks.” She ran her hands through the boy’s matted hair, lifted his bruised top lip with her gloved fingers. “He hadn’t seen a dentist in a while. Could be a runaway.”

  “Yeah,” I said. Then I must’ve gotten quiet for a minute or so.

  “Whatcha thinking, honey?”

  “That I’ve got another John Doe on my hands.”

  I was remembering another teenage John Doe, a homeless kid who’d been murdered in a place like this when I was just getting started in homicide. It was one of my worst cases ever, and ten years later the death still gnawed at me.

  “I’ll know more when I get this young man on my table,” Claire was saying when Jacobi stuck his head through the doorway again.

  “The informant says that partial plate number was taken off a Mercedes,” he said. “A black one.”

  A black Mercedes had been seen at the other electrocution murder. I grinned as I felt a surge of hope. Yes, I was making it personal. I was going to find the bastard who had killed these kids and I was going to put him away before he could do it again.

  Chapter 3

  A WEEK HAD GONE by since the nightmare at the Lorenzo Hotel. The crime lab was still sifting through the abundant detritus of room 21, and our informant’s three-digit partial license plate number was either half wrong or a wild guess. As for me, I woke up every morning feeling pissed off and sad because this ugly case was going nowhere.

  The dead kids haunted me as I drove to Susie’s for a get-together with the girls that evening. Susie’s is a neighborhood café, a bright hot spot with walls sponge-painted in tropical colors, serving spicy but tasty Caribbean food.

  Jill, Claire, Cindy, and I had adopted this place as our sanctuary as well as our clubhouse. Our straight-shooting girl talk, unhampered by rank or department lines, had often cut through weeks of bureaucratic BS. Together, we’d broken cases wide open in this very spot.

  I saw Claire and Cindy in “our” booth at the back. Claire was laughing at something Cindy had said, which happened a lot because Claire had a great laugh and Cindy was a funny girl as well as a first-class investigative reporter for the Chronicle. Jill, of course, was gone.

  “I want what you’re having,” I said as I slid into the booth next to Claire. There was a pitcher of margaritas on the table and four glasses, two of them empty. I filled a glass and looked at my friends, feeling that almost magical connection that we’d forged because of all we’d gone through together.

  “Looks like you need a transfusion,” Claire joked.

  “I swear I do. Bring on the IV.” I took a gulp of the icy brew, snagged the newspaper that was beside Cindy’s elbow, and paged through until I found the story buried on page 17 of the Metro section, below the fold. INFO SOUGHT IN TENDERLOIN DISTRICT MURDERS.

  “I guess it’s a bigger story in my mind,” I said.

  “Dead street people don’t make page one,” Cindy said sympathetically.

  “It’s odd,” I told the girls. “Actually, we have too much information. Seven thousand prints. Hair, fiber, a ton of useless DNA from a carpet that hadn’t been vacuumed since Nixon was a boy.” I stopped ranting long enough to pull the rubber band off my ponytail and shake out my hair. “On the other hand, with all the potential snitches crawling through the Tenderloin District, all we have is one shitty lead.”

  “It sucks, Linds,” said Cindy. “Is the chief on your ass?”

  “Nope,” I said, tapping the tiny mention of the Tenderloin District murders with my forefinger.
As the killer says, nobody cares.”

  “Ease up on yourself, honey,” Claire said. “You’ll get a bite into this thing. You always do.”

  “Yeah, enough about all this. Jill would give me hell for whining.”

  “She says, ‘No problem,’” Cindy cracked, pointing to Jill’s empty seat. We lifted our glasses and clinked them together.

  “To Jill,” we said in unison.

  We filled Jill’s glass and passed it around in remembrance of Jill Bernhardt, a spectacular ADA and our great friend, who’d been murdered only months ago. We missed her terribly and said so. In a while, our waitress, Loretta, brought a new pitcher of margaritas to replace the last.

  “You’re looking chirpy,” I said to Cindy, who jumped in with her news. She’d met a new guy, a hockey player who played for the Sharks in San Jose, and she was pretty pleased with herself. Claire and I started pumping her for details while the reggae band tuned up, and soon we were all singing a Jimmy Cliff song, plinking our spoons against the glassware.

  I was finally getting loose in Margaritaville when my Nextel rang. It was Jacobi.

  “Meet me outside, Boxer. I’m a block away. We’ve got a bead on that Mercedes.”

  What I should’ve said was “Go without me. I’m off duty.” But it was my case, and I had to go. I tossed some bills down on the table, blew kisses at the girls, and bolted for the door. The killer was wrong about one thing. Somebody cared.

  Chapter 4

  I GOT IN THE passenger-side door of our unmarked gray Crown Vic.

  “Where to?” I asked Jacobi.

  “The Tenderloin District,” he told me. “A black Mercedes has been seen cruising around down there. Doesn’t seem to fit in with the neighborhood.”

  Inspector Warren Jacobi used to be my partner. He’d handled my promotion pretty well, all things considered; he had more than ten years on me, and seven more years in grade. We still partnered up on special cases, and even though he reported to me, I had to turn myself in.

  “I had a few at Susie’s.”

  “Beers?”

  “Margaritas.”

  “How many is a few?” He swung his large head toward me.

  “One and a half,” I said, not admitting to the third of the one I drank for Jill.

 
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