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11th Hour

Your best friend

Lindsay Boxer is pregnant at last! But her work doesn't slow for a second. When millionaire Chaz Smith is mercilessly gunned down, she discovers that the murder weapon is linked to the deaths of four of San Francisco's most untouchable criminals. And it was taken from her own department's evidence locker. Anyone could be the killer—even her closest friends.

Or a vicious killer?

Lindsay is called next to the most bizarre crime scene she's ever seen: two bodiless heads elaborately displayed in the garden of a world-famous actor. Another head is unearthed in the garden, and Lindsay realizes that the ground could hide hundreds of victims.

You won't know until the 11th hour

A reporter launches a series of vicious articles about the cases and Lindsay's personal life is laid bare. But this time she has no one to turn to—especially not Joe. 11TH HOUR is the most shocking, most emotional, and most thrilling Women's Murder Club novel ever.

Book One | The House of Heads

Chapter 2

THE SUN WAS still in bed when I parked my Explorer across the street from the Hall of Justice, home to the DA’s office, the criminal court, and the southern division of the SFPD.

I badged security, went through the metal detector, and headed across the empty garnet-colored-marble lobby to the staircase and from there to the Homicide squad room on the fourth floor.

Lieutenant Jackson Brady had called us together for an early meeting but hadn’t said why. I’d been working for Brady for ten months and it still felt wrong.

Brady was a good cop. I’d seen him perform acts of bravery and maybe even heroism—but I didn’t like his management style. He was rigid. He isolated himself. And when I’d been lieutenant, I’d done the job a different way.

My partner, Rich Conklin, looked up from his computer as I came through the gate. I loved Richie—he was like a little brother who looked out for me. He was not just a fine cop but a sterling person, and we’d had a great couple of years working Homicide together. What I appreciated about Conklin was how, in times of high stress, he always kept a steady hand on the wheel.

Our desks were pushed together at the front of the squad room so that we worked face-to-face. I hung my jacket over the back of my chair said, “What’s going on?”

All he said was “I’ll tell you when everyone is here.”

I showed my childishness by making a lot of noise banging my chair against the desk. It took me about a minute to get it out of my system. Conklin watched me patiently.

“I haven’t had coffee,” I said.

Conklin offered me his. Then he threw paper clips at me until I calmed down.

At 6:30 a.m. the Homicide squad was present, all eight of us, sitting at our desks under the fluorescent lights that made us look embalmed.

Brady came out of his hundred square feet of glass-walled office and went directly to the whiteboard at the front of the room. He yanked down a screen, revealing 8 x 10s of three high-ranking bad-news drug dealers, all of them dead.

Then he stuck up photos of a fourth dead man—both his mug shot and morgue shot.

It was Chaz Smith. And his death was news.

Smith was a notorious scumbag who lived his upscale life in Noe Valley, passing as a retired businessman. He made a good living brokering the sales of millions of dollars in high-grade cocaine, delivering it to other dealers who sold on the street.

Smith had avoided capture for years because he was stealthy and smart and no one had ever caught him stopped next to another car on the shoulder of some highway transacting business through the window of his Ferrari.

Judging from the two bullet holes in his head, I figured it was safe to say he’d made his last deal.

Brady said, “Smith was at his little girl’s music recital yesterday afternoon. He went to the men’s room to have a snort, then took two shots through his frontal lobe. He was armed. He never got his gun into his hand.”

Smith’s death meant one less heinous dirtbag preying on the weak, and he’d been taken out without any taxpayer expense. I would have thought Narcotics would be dealing with this, not Homicide, but something was different about this murder. Something that had gotten to our lieutenant.

Brady took his job seriously. He didn’t waste words. And yet right now he seemed to be skirting the reason he’d brought us onto the case.

I said, “Why us, Lieutenant?”

“Narcotics has requested our help,” he said. “I know. We’ve got more than enough active cases, but here’s the thing—Chaz Smith was taken out by a twenty-two that was stolen from our evidence room, one of six twenty-twos that have disappeared in the last few months. The shooter had access to SFPD floors. And the evidence log was deleted.”

There was some gasping and shuffling in the room. Brady went on.

“There were no witnesses to Smith’s murder, no evidence was left behind, and the fire alarm was pulled to create confusion.

“It was a professional hit, the fourth in a string of slick hits on dealers. It points to something—ah, shit,” Brady said. “I’m not going to finesse it for you.

“I think the shooter is a cop.”

Copyright © 2012 by James Patterson

Read by January LaVoy

January LaVoy is a New York-based voice, stage, and television actress. She has performed on and Off-Broadway, and appeared extensively in regional theatres across the country. She is best known for her role as Noelle Ortiz on the long-running ABC daytime drama One Life to Live.

Audio Excerpts (MP3)

James on 11th Hour and The Women's Murder Club

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