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James Patterson

10th Anniversary

Women's Murder Club — 10

For Isabelle Patterson

and Madeline Paetro

Acknowledgments

Our thanks and gratitude to New York attorney Philip R. Hoffman, Captain Richard J. Conklin of the Stamford, Connecticut, Police Department, and Dr. Humphrey Germaniuk, Medical Examiner of Trumbull County, Ohio, for generously sharing their time and wealth of experience.

Our thanks, too, to our excellent researchers, Ingrid Taylar, Ellie Shurtleff, Melissa Pevy, and Lynn Colomello. And to Mary Jordan, who, as always, manned the control tower.

Prologue. WITH BELLS ON

One

THIS WAS THE DAY I was getting married.

Our suite at the Ritz in Half Moon Bay was in chaos. My best friends and I had stripped down to our underwear, and our street clothes had been flung over the furniture. Sorbet-colored dresses hung from the moldings and door frames.

The scene looked like a Degas painting of ballerinas before the curtain went up, or maybe a romanticized bordello in the Wild West. Jokes were cracked. Giddiness reigned — and then the door opened and my sister Catherine stepped in, wearing her brave face: a tight smile, pain visible at the corners of her eyes.

“What’s wrong, Cat?” I asked.

“He’s not here.”

I blinked, tried to ignore the sharp pang of disappointment. I said sarcastically, “Well, there’s a shock.”

Cat was talking about our father, Marty Boxer, who left home when we were kids and failed to show when my mom was dying. I’d seen him only twice in the past ten years and hadn’t missed him, but after he’d told Cat he’d come to my wedding, I’d had an expectation.

“He said he would be here. He promised,” Cat said.

I’m six years older than my sister and a century more jaded. I should have known better. I hugged her.

“Forget it,” I said. “He can’t hurt us. He’s nobody to us.”

Claire, my best bosom buddy, sat up in bed, swung her legs over, and put her bare feet on the floor. She’s a large black woman and funny — acidly so. If she weren’t a pathologist, she could do stand-up comedy.

I’ll give you away, Lindsay,” she said. “But I want you back.”

Cindy and I cracked up, and Yuki piped up, “I know who can stand in for Marty, that jerk.” She stepped into her pink satin dress, pulled it up over her tiny little bones, and zipped it herself. She said, “Be right back.”

Getting things done was Yuki’s specialty. Don’t get in her way when she’s in gear. Even if she’s in the wrong gear.

“Yuki, wait,” I called as she rushed out the door. I turned to Claire, saw that she was holding up what used to be called a foundation garment. It was boned and forbidding-looking.

“I don’t mind wearing a dress that makes me look like a cupcake, but how in hell am I supposed to get into this?”

“I love my dress,” said Cindy, fingering the peach-colored silk organza. She was probably the first bridesmaid in the world to express that sentiment, but Cindy was terminally lovesick. She turned her pretty face toward me and said dreamily, “You should get ready.”

Two yards of creamy satin slid out of the garment bag. I wriggled into the strapless Vera Wang confection, then stood with my sister in front of the long freestanding mirror: a pair of tall brown-eyed blondes, looking so much like our dad.

“Grace Kelly never looked so good,” said Cat, her eyes welling up.

“Dip your head, gorgeous,” said Cindy.

She fastened her pearls around my neck.

I did a little pirouette, and Claire caught my hand and twirled me under her arm. She said, “Do you believe it, Linds? I’m going to dance at your wedding.”

She didn’t say “finally,” but she was right to think it, having lived through my roller-coaster, long-distance romance with Joe, punctuated by his moving to San Francisco to be with me, my house burning down, a couple of near-death experiences, and a huge diamond engagement ring that I’d kept in a drawer for most of a year.

“Thanks for keeping the faith,” I said.

“I wouldn’t call it faith, darling,” Claire cracked. “I never expected to see a miracle, let alone be part of one.”

I gave her a playful jab on the arm. She ducked and feinted. The door opened and Yuki came in with my bouquet: a lavish bunch of peonies and roses tied with baby blue streamers.

“This hankie belonged to my grandmother,” Cindy said, tucking a bit of lace into my cleavage, checking off the details. “Old, new, borrowed, blue. You’re good.”

“I cued up the music, Linds,” said Yuki. “We’re on.”

My God.

Joe and I were really getting married.

Two

JACOBI MET ME in the hotel lobby, stuck out his elbow, and laughed out loud. Yuki had been right. Jacobi was the perfect stand-in Dad. I took his arm and he kissed my cheek.

First time ever.

“You look beautiful, Boxer. You know, more than usual.”

Another first.

Jacobi and I had spent so much time in a squad car together, we could almost read each other’s minds. But I didn’t have to be clairvoyant to read the love in his eyes.

I grinned at him and said, “Thanks, Jacobi. Thanks a lot.”

I squeezed his arm and we walked across an acre of marble, through tall French doors, and into my future.

Jacobi had a limp and a wheeze, the remnants of a shooting a couple of years back in the Tenderloin. I’d thought we were both going to check out that night. But that was then.

Now the warm, salty air embraced me. The great lawns flowed around the shining white gazebo and down

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