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3rd Degree

The #1 bestselling new mystery series of the past decade comes roaring back with 3rd Degree, a shockingly suspenseful thriller featuring the Women's Murder Club.

One of James Patterson's best loved heroines is about to die. Detective Lindsay Boxer is jogging along a beautiful San Francisco street when a fiery explosion rips through the neighborhood. A town house owned by an Internet millionaire is immediately engulfed in flames, and when Lindsay plunges inside to search for survivors, she finds three people dead. An infant who lived in the house cannot be found - and a mysterious message at the scene leaves Lindsay and the San Francisco Police Department completely baffled.

Then a prominent businessman is found murdered under bizarre circumstances, with another mysterious message left behind by the killer. Lindsay asks her friends Claire Washburn of the medical examiner's office, Assistant D.A. Jill Bernhardt, and Chronicle reporter Cindy Thomas to help her figure out who is committing these murders-and why they are intent on killing someone every three days.

Even more terrifying, the killer has targeted one of the four friends who call themselves the Women's Murder Club.

Which one will it be?

While the investigation rages furiously, Lindsay works very closely with a federal officer assigned to the case. At the same time, she learns that one member of the Women's Murder Club is hiding a secret so dangerous and unbelievable that it could destroy them all.

Chapter 3

I GULPED AIR and headed deeper into the collapsing house. "Where are you?" I called. I stumbled over flaming rubble. I was scared now, not only for whoever had cried but for myself.

I heard it again. A low whimpering from somewhere in the back of the house. I made straight for it. "I'm coming!" I shouted. To my left, a wooden beam crashed. The farther I went, the more trouble I was in. I spotted a hallway where I thought the sounds came from, the ceiling teetering where the second story used to be.

"Police!" I yelled. "Where are you?" Nothing.

Then I heard the crying again. Closer this time. I stumbled down the hallway, blanketing my face. C'mon, Lindsay... Just a few more feet.

I pushed through a smoking doorway. Jesus, it's a kid's bedroom. What was left of it.

A bed was overturned on its side up against a wall. It was smothered in thick dust. I shouted, then heard the noise again. A muffled, coughing sound.

The frame of the bed was hot to the touch, but I managed to budge it a little bit from the wall. Oh, my God...I saw the shadowy outline of a child's face.

It was a small boy. Maybe ten years old. The child was coughing and crying. He could barely speak. His room was buried under an avalanche of debris. I couldn't wait. Any longer and the fumes alone would kill us.

"I'm gonna get you out of here," I promised. Then I wedged myself between the wall and the bed and, with all my strength, pried it away from the wall. I took the boy by the shoulders, praying I wasn't doing him harm.

I stumbled through the flames, carrying the boy. Smoke was everywhere, searing and noxious. I saw a light where I thought I had come in, but I didn't know for sure.

I was coughing, the boy clinging to me with his petrified grip. "Mommy, mommy," he was crying. I squeezed him back, to let him know I wasn't going to let him die.

I screamed ahead, praying that someone would answer. "Please, is anyone there?"

"Here," I heard a voice through the blackness. I stumbled over debris, avoiding new hot spots flaming up. Now I saw the entrance. Sirens, voices. The shape of a man. A fireman. He gently took the boy out of my arms. Another fireman wrapped his arms around me. We headed outside.

Then I was out, dropping to my knees, sucking in mouthfuls of precious air. An EMT carefully put a blanket around me. Everyone was being so good, so professional. I collapsed against a fire truck up on the sidewalk. I almost threw up, then I did.

Someone put an oxygen mask over my mouth and I took several deep gulps. A fireman bent over me. "Were you inside when it went?"

"No." I shook my head. "I went in to help." I could barely talk, or think. I opened my fanny pack and showed him my badge. "Lieutenant Boxer," I said, coughing. "Homicide."

Copyright © 2004 by James Patterson

Read by Carolyn McCormick
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