Hard to Kill

Meet the toughest, smartest, doesn't-give-a-****-est thriller heroine ever

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By James Patterson

By Mike Lupica

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Jane Smith is being hailed as James Patterson’s greatest character yet, a tough-as-nails attorney up against a relentless killer. Hard to Kill features possibly the author’s most stunning twist ever.

Attorney Jane Smith is mounting an impossible criminal defense. 

Her client, Rob Jacobson, is the unluckiest of the unlucky. No sooner is he accused of killing a family of three in the Hamptons than a second family is gunned down. 

It’s not double jeopardy. It’s not double murder. It’s double triple homicide. 

Jane’s career has spanned from NYPD beat cop to Hamptons courtroom. She’s tough to beat. She’s even tougher to kill. 

The defense may never rest.  

Genre:

On Sale
Jul 29, 2024
Page Count
384 pages
ISBN-13
9780316569910

What's Inside

ONE

JIMMY CUNNIFF CALLS TO tell me to get dressed, we’re taking a ride.

“Am I allowed to ask where we’re going?”

“To check in on an old friend.”

“Am I allowed to ask which one?”

He tells me. And I tell him I’ll be ready when he gets to my house.

Now we’re standing at the top of steps leading up and into a courthouse, a new one for us, the Nassau County Courthouse in Mineola.

Rob Jacobson, my former client, one I recently got acquitted of a triple homicide in Suffolk County, is about to turn himself in one county over. On another triple homicide. Like Jimmy always says: You can’t make this shit up.

“Apparently he’s gonna tour,” Jimmy says. “Like the Ice Capades.” “Ice Capades ended years ago.”

“I was making a larger point,” he says. “You often are.”

Jimmy is my investigator, wing man, best friend, former hot‑ticket NYPD detective. His divorce from the cops wasn’t pretty. But then neither were my divorces from husbands one and two.

“Here he comes,” I say.

“It’s a perp walk,” Jimmy says. “Not a red carpet.”

With plenty of time to spare, it got out, the way everything gets out in the modern world, that Jacobson and his new lawyer, Howie “the Horse” Friedlander, were going to do it this way, here at the courthouse. Jacobson’s renting a house not far from mine in Amagansett, between East Hampton and Montauk. Having him led out of a residence in handcuffs was not the optic Howie or Rob wanted, as if any good optics could come from a moment like this.

The crowd today isn’t the size that we routinely got during trial in Riverhead. A trial that ended, thanks to Jimmy and me, in Jacobson’s acquittal. But now, in what felt like a blink, he has been charged with murdering another father, wife, teenage daughter. It was the Gates family last time. This time the Carsons of Garden City.

“He says he was set up,” I tell Jimmy Cunniff.

“Set up again? For three more murders? What are the odds?”

“He’s either a psychopath or the unluckiest SOB on the face of the earth.”

“I’ll take psychopath for two hundred, Alex,” Jimmy says. “Alex Trebek is dead.”

“So are all those people.”

Howie Friedlander is walking next to Rob. Howie got his nickname because he’s about the size of a jockey. A case like this is the kind of ride lawyers like Howie and me look for their whole lives but hardly ever get.

All Howie has to do is what I did: Win.

Rob Jacobson’s trying to look as sure of himself as ever, the cameras back on him, at the center of his own three‑ring circus all over again.

“We need to get this over with,” Howie says.

I watch as the doors open and two cops who could double as bouncers step outside. One of them is carrying handcuffs, which means shit is about to get very real for Rob Jacobson.

Again.

Before they put the cuffs on him, he turns around and looks back, his eyes suddenly pleading with me. Not even trying to hide how scared he is, Jacobson puts one of his free hands — while they still are free — to his ear and mouths as if into a phone: Call me.

Then, as if he’s silently shouting at me, he mouths one last word: Please.

Then the cuffs go on him and the doors open back up and he’s gone.

Jimmy sees me staring in Jacobson’s direction. Maybe he can see in my eyes that I didn’t just tell Jacobson the whole truth. I don’t miss scenes like this, that is the truth. But I do want to be inside the courthouse, breathing that air again, instead of being out here, like I’m on the sidelines at the big game.

“Why do you look like you’ve got a hook in your mouth?” Jimmy asks.

“Probably because I do.”

•••

TWO

IT DOESN’T TAKE LONG for my friends in the media to move right in on me after Jacobson is inside the courthouse.

“Let’s get out of here,” Jimmy says as he sees them coming.

I grin at him. “And why would we want to do something like that?”

It’s worth pointing out here that for me to get more face time on cable news than during Jacobson’s first trial I’d have to be involved in a juicy sex scandal.

I wish.

From behind one of the cameras I hear, “Do you think he’s going to get away with it again, Jane?”

“Are you implying that he got away with something when I was the one representing him?”

“Just asking you what you think.”

“The jury spoke,” I say. “Almost as eloquently as I so often did during that trial.”

It gets a laugh.

I put up my hands in mock surrender now.

“Ladies and gentlemen, pay close attention, because you may never again hear these words from me, at least not consecutively: No comment.”

But it’s as if at least one of them has read my mind about being here.

“Come on. Don’t you wish it was you perp‑walking right alongside him?”

“No.”

Yes.

“Tell the truth, Jane.”

“You can’t handle the truth,” I growl.

It gets another decent laugh, if only from fans of A Few Good Men. I tell them not to forget to tip their waiters, and Jimmy and I start walking down the steps.

We’re only halfway down to the street when I see a guy in a hoodie staring up at me from the sidewalk, about fifty yards away. Giving me, in words that Jimmy taught me from his cop days, the hard eye.

Jimmy is still walking, not realizing right away that I’ve stopped, as the guy in the hoodie extends his arm, cocks his thumb and index finger of his hand, makes a shooting motion.

Then he’s around the corner and gone. Now Jimmy stops.

“You look like you saw a ghost,” he says. “I did.”

“Ghost got a name?”

“Yeah. Nick Morelli.”

A star witness in Rob Jacobson’s first trial until the Coast Guard found his fishing boat out on the water near Montauk without him in it.

“He’s dead,” Jimmy says.

I’m still staring at where he’d been on the sidewalk. “Or not.”

•••

THREE

“YOU’RE BEING WAY TOO quiet,” Jimmy says as we’re getting off the Northern State and onto the Long Island Expressway.

“I’m thinking.”

“You generally do most of your thinking out loud, you don’t mind me saying.”

“What if it was Morelli I just saw?” I ask. “And if he’s been in hiding, why did he make a point of making sure I saw him?”

Nick Morelli had once dated Laurel Gates, the teenage daughter of Mitch and Kathy Gates, all three of whom Jacobson had been charged with murdering. He’d testified about seeing Jacobson making out with Laurel Gates across the street from the Stephen Talkhouse in Amagansett the summer she died.

The day after Morelli testified, he’d disappeared. Body never found.

Jimmy says it’s still an open case with the East Hampton Police. Being Jimmy, he checks from time to time, but they keep telling him there has been no evidence — credit card or bank statements or sightings — that Morelli is still walking among us. “There was a time when we thought Jacobson might have had Morelli killed, remember?” I say to Jimmy. “Just because Morelli wasn’t going to do our guy much good alive.”

“Stop me if you’ve heard this one before,” Jimmy says. “But our guy said he didn’t do that, either.”

We drive in silence for a few miles before Jimmy suddenly bangs his hands hard on the steering wheel. Saying something I know he’s wanted to say since we left Mineola.

“You can’t really want to defend him on this Carson thing.”

I smile because I can’t keep myself from smiling. Because he’s got me and we both know he’s got me, the only thing left is to slap the cuffs on me.

“You’re right, Cunniff. I can’t tell you that.”

“Shit,” he says. “I was afraid of that.”

We make the turn at Exit 70, getting on Route 111, the connector road that will put us on 27 all the way to my house in Amagansett.

“I knew I shouldn’t have taken you there,” Jimmy says. “I should’ve known that being that close to the action would be like some kind of drug.”

“Yeah,” I say. “That’s what I need these days. More drugs.”

“Poor choice of words.”

“But I can’t lie to you, Cunniff. For a few minutes there in front of that courthouse, I actually felt like my old self again. Like I’m still the woman you refer to as Jane Effing Smith.”

I don’t tell Jimmy Cunniff the whole truth and nothing but, that there on those steps, I felt so alive I forgot I was dying.

That I didn’t have effing cancer.