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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 5

I WAS AT my desk when the 911 call came in at 7:20 and was relayed to the squad room by dispatcher May Hess, our self-anointed Queen of the Batphone.

Hess told me, “A woman of few words called and reported two people dead at the Ellsworth compound.

“She sounded for real,” Hess continued. “She said there were no intruders in the house and she was in no danger. Just ‘Two people are dead.’ Then she hung up. I called back twice but got an answering machine both times. I put out a call.”

I listened to the 911 tape. The caller had a British accent and sounded scared. In fact, the fear in her voice and whatever she wasn’t saying were more alarming than what she said.

Brady listened to the tape, then tagged me and my partner to take a run out to Pacific Heights.

“Just do the prelim,” he said. “I’ll assign a primary when you bring back a report.”

Yes, sir. Forthwith, sir.

At 7:35 a.m., Conklin braked our car in front of the Ellsworth compound. Four cruisers had gotten there before us and there was also a red double-decker bus parked parallel to the curb. A gang of maybe twenty tourists were taking pictures from behind barricades across the street.

I had known the Ellsworth compound was on the historic-house tour, but I guess when Harry Chandler bought it for umpteen million dollars ten years ago, the compound went on the stargazing tour as well.

I got out of the car and approached Officer Joe Sorbera, who had been the first on the scene. He took out his notebook and said to me, “I got here at seven ten, spoke to Janet Worley, the caretaker, through the intercom. There’s the box next to the gate. She said she was not in any danger and that the victims, two of them, were dead. Definitely dead were her exact words.”

The uniformed cop continued. “Lieutenant Brady told me to cordon off a perimeter and to wait for you, Sergeant. He told me not to go into the house.”

“Has the ME been called?”

“Yes, ma’am. And CSU is on the way. I took some photos of the crowd.”

“Good job, Sorbera.”

I looked at the mob, saw it was thickening. Cars were backed up on Vallejo and were being detoured around Divisadero. Because of the traffic, and a million Tweets and YouTube posts by tourists, the scene would be red-flagged by the press.

Death plus celebrity was a heady news combination. The media was going to train its brights on this house, and any law enforcement errors would be documented for posterity.

I told Sorbera to set up a media liaison and a command post on Pierce, then I went to where Conklin was examining the front gate to the compound.

The wrought-iron gate was set into a ten-foot-high ivy-clad brick wall that gave the house total privacy from the street. The metalwork looked old enough to be original, and the lock had recently been forced. I saw fresh cuts in old iron.

“It was pried open with a metal tool, not a bolt cutter,” Conklin said.

Joe Sorbera said there were two victims, definitely dead. Who were they? Was Harry Chandler involved?

Brady had assigned us to do the preliminary workup, meaning we had to determine where law enforcement and forensics could walk on the scene without destroying evidence. We were charged with taking pictures, making sketches, and forming an opinion.

After that, we’d turn the scene over to the primary investigator on the case.

I gloved up and pushed at the gate, which swung open on well-oiled hinges. A stone walkway crossed a mossy grass lawn and led past a couple of flower beds, one on each side of the steps, to the ornate front door.

The door showed no sign of forced entry. Conklin lifted the brass door knocker, banged it against the strike plate.

I called out, “Janet Worley, this is the police.”

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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