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Unlucky 13

The Women's Murder Club is stalked by a killer with nothing to lose.

San Francisco Detective Lindsay Boxer is loving her life as a new mother. With an attentive husband, a job she loves, plus best friends who can talk about anything from sex to murder, things couldn't be better.

Then the FBI sends Lindsay a photo of a killer from her past, and her happy world is shattered. The picture captures a beautiful woman at a stoplight. But all Lindsay sees is the psychopath behind those seductive eyes: Mackie Morales, the most deranged and dangerous mind the Women's Murder Club has ever encountered.

In this pulse-racing, emotionally charged novel by James Patterson, the Women's Murder Club must find a killer—before she finds them first.

Prologue | KA-BOOM

Three

THE LUNCH-HOUR RUSH had escalated from peeved to highly outraged. Traffic cops were taking crap from irate drivers, and TV choppers buzzed overhead like houseflies circling a warm apple pie.

The tow truck operator called out in my direction, “Hey. Like, can someone extract the victims? We gotta open the bridge.”

Here’s what I knew for sure: I was the ranking homicide cop on the scene, the primary investigator until the case was permanently assigned. Right now, my job was to protect the scene from contamination, and, no joke, the scene was a six-lane highway.

I marched over to the tow-truck driver and told him, “Thanks, but the wreck is staying here and please extract your truck from my bridge.”

As the tow truck moved out, I addressed my fellow law enforcement officers, saying, “Whatever this is, it’s not an accident. I’m locking the bridge down.”

“Bravo,” Claire said. “We agree.”

I dismissed nonessential personnel and phoned Charlie Clapper, head of CSU. I told him to drop whatever he might be doing and hustle over.

“Jam on the gas and jack up the sirens,” I said.

I reported in to Brady, told him what I knew. He said he would get hold of the chief and the mayor, and would be on scene ASAP.

Yellow tape was unspooled and a perimeter was set up with a wide margin around the Jeep. Roadblocks were placed at both ends of the bridge. Conklin and I documented the scene with our cell-phone cameras and notepads and chewed over some theories.

I was enormously relieved when Clapper’s van came through with a flatbed truck behind it. Both vehicles parked outside the cordon, and the unflappable Clapper and half a dozen criminalists disembarked.

Clapper is a crisply turned-out man in his late forties, a former homicide cop, and a very fine CSI. I went over to him and said, “I don’t think you’ve ever seen anything like this.”

After I briefed him on what I was calling a crime scene, we walked over to the wreck and Clapper poked his head into the vehicle.

He took a long look, then backed out and said, “It’s an explosion, all right. But the way I understand belly bombs, they’re mechanical devices, surgically implanted. Powder.

Cap. Detonator. I don’t see wires. I don’t smell explosive powder. And this is strange,” Clapper continued. “The blast was restricted to the front compartment. Bombs of this type are meant to blow up not just the vehicle, but everything around it. You’re right, though. This is a new one on me.”

I said, “We’ve run the plates, but I want the bodies ID’d before Eyewitness News notifies next of kin.”

I pointed to a red nylon backpack in the rear foot well. After a tech shot photos of the bag and the fairly untouched rear compartment, I gloved up and unzipped the bag. Inside was a toy dog, a bunch of CDs, cell-phone charger, and a blue spangled wallet.

Inside the wallet was a driver’s license.

“Our female victim is Lara Trimble, twenty-one, lives in Oakland,” I said.

There was a mess of paper litter in the rear compartment foot well and I found myself staring at something that might be important.

“Can you shoot that?” I asked.

Once forensics had photos, I lifted out a hamburger bag that hadn’t been damaged in the blast.

“Hello,” I said out loud. “Is this where they had their last meal?”

Clapper said, “Thank you,” and then deftly took the bag from my fingers and sealed it in a glassine envelope. “This is what we like to call evidence.”

Claire joined us and said, “Charles, what are you thinking?”

“I’m thinking that this scene is going to be on the national news in a wink. The FBI, Homeland Security, ATF, as many Feds as can fit on the deck will be here in a half hour and the bridge will be closed until next Christmas. For twenty-four hours, anyway.”

The Golden Gate Bridge was a high-quality target, an American icon. Bombs on this bridge would scare everyone in San Francisco. It was scaring the crap out of me.

I called Brady’s cell and said that we were looking at possible terrorist activity.

He said, “Shit. Of course we are.”

Then we all stood around in the swirling fog and waited for the Feds to arrive.

Copyright © 2014 by James Patterson

Read by January LaVoy

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