Someone is killing the richest people in the city—and it's the Women's Murder Club's scariest investigation ever.
APPEARANCES CAN BE DECEIVING
At the party of the year, San Francisco's most glamorous millionaires mingle...while someone is watching—waiting for a chance to take vengeance on Isa and Ethan Bailey, the city's most celebrated couple. Finally, the killer pinpoints the ideal moment, and it's the perfect murder.
BUT THE TRUTH CAN BE DEADLY
While Detective Lindsay Boxer investigates the high-profile killings, someone else is found brutally executed—a preacher with a message of hope for the homeless. His death nearly falls through the cracks, but reporter Cindy Thomas hears about it and soon discovers the victim may not have been quite as saintly as everyone thought.
LET THE CONFESSIONS BEGIN
As the hunt for two criminals tests the limits of the Women's Murder Club, Lindsay sees sparks fly between Cindy and Lindsay's partner, Detective Rich Conklin. The Women's Murder Club now faces its toughest challenge: Will love destroy all that four friends have built? James Patterson serves up a double dose of speed-charged twists and shocking revelations. And remember, this is the only Murder Club episode of the year.
Part One | BAGMAN JESUS
CINDY THOMAS BUTTONED her lightweight Burberry trench coat, said, "Morning, Pinky," as the doorman held open the front doors of the Blakely Arms. He touched his hat brim and searched Cindy's eyes, saying, "Have a good day, Ms. Thomas. You take care."
Cindy couldn't say that she never looked for trouble. She worked the crime desk at the Chronicle and liked to say, "Bad news is good news to me."
But a year and a half ago a psycho with an illegal sublet and an anger-management problem, living two floors above her, had sneaked into apartments and gone on a brutal killing spree.
The killer had been caught and convicted, and was currently quarantined on death row at the "Q."
But still, there were aftershocks at the Blakely Arms. The residents triple-locked their doors every night, flinched at sudden noises, felt the loss of common, everyday security.
Cindy was determined not to live with this kind of fear.
She smiled at the doorman, said, "I'm a badass, Pinky. Thugs had better watch out for me."
Then she breezed outside into the early May morning.
Striding down Townsend from Third to Fifth—two very long blocks—Cindy traveled between the old and new San Francisco. She passed the liquor store next to her building, the drive-through McDonald's across the street, the Starbucks and the Borders on the ground floor of a new residential high-rise, using the time to return calls, book appointments, set up her day.
She paused near the recently rejuvenated Caltrain station that used to be a hell pit of homeless druggies, now much improved as the neighborhood gentrification took hold.
But behind the Caltrain station was a fenced-off and buckled stretch of sidewalk that ran along the train yard. Rusted junkers and vans from the Jimi Hendrix era parked on the street. The vehicles were crash pads for the homeless.
As Cindy mentally geared up for her power walk through that "no- fly zone," she noticed a clump of street people ahead—and some of them seemed to be crying.
Then she drew her laminated ID card out of her coat, held it in front of her like a badge, pushed her way into the crowd—and it parted for her.
The ailanthus trees shooting up through cracks in the pavement cast a netted shade on a pile of rags, old newspapers, and fast-food trash that was lying at the base of the chain-link fence.
Cindy felt a wave of nausea, sucked in her breath.
The pile of rags was, in fact, a dead man. His clothes were blood-soaked and his face so beaten to mush, Cindy couldn't make out his features.
She asked a bystander, "What happened? Who is this man?"
The bystander was a heavyset woman, toothless, wearing many layers and textures of clothes. Her legs were bandaged to the knees and her nose was pink from crying.
She gave Cindy a sidelong look.
"It's B-B-Bagman Jesus. Someone killed him!"
Cindy thumbed 911 on her Treo, reported what had clearly been a murder, and waited for the police to arrive.
As she waited, street people gathered around her.
These were the unwashed, the uncounted, the unnoticed, fringe people who slipped through the cracks, lived where the Census Bureau feared to tread.
They stank and they twitched, they stammered and scratched, and they jockeyed to get closer to Cindy. They reached out to touch her, talked over and corrected one another.
They wanted to be heard.
And although a half hour ago Cindy would have avoided all contact with them, she now wanted very much to hear them. As time passed and the police didn't come, Cindy felt a story budding, getting ready to bloom.
She used her cell again, called her friend Lindsay at home.
The phone rang six times before a masculine voice rasped,
"Hello?" Sounded to Cindy like maybe she'd interrupted
Lindsay and Joe at an inopportune moment.
"Beautiful timing, Cindy," Joe panted.
"Sorry, Joe, really," said Cindy. "But I've got to speak to Lindsay."
Copyright © 2009 by James Patterson
Carolyn McCormick has appeared in the films A Simple Twist of Fate and Enemy Mine. She has starred as Dr. Olivet on television's Law & Order for the past twelve years, and as a guest on The Practice and Star Trek. Her Broadway credits include roles in The Dinner Party and Private Lives. She read 7th Heaven by James Patterson for Hachette Audio.