Kill or Be Killed

4 BookShots Thrillers


By James Patterson

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This killer Bookshots special edition of four first-rate thrillers features the Women’s Murder Club, a deadly little black dress, a ruthless band of thieves, and a lethal team of vengeful warriors.

The Trial: An accused murderer called Kingfisher is on trial. And Detective Lindsay Boxer and the Women’s Murder Club are in for a courtroom shocker you’ll never see coming.

Little Black Dress: Can a little black dress change everything? What begins as one woman’s fantasy is about to go too far.

Heist: A band of ruthless thieves is about to pull off the perfect diamond heist-until a rival crew arrives at the exact same time.

The Women’s War: Former Marine Corps colonel Amanda Collins and her lethal team of women warriors have vowed to avenge her family’s murder.
And they have nothing left to lose . . .

Lightning-fast stories by James Patterson
  • Novels you can devour in a few hours
  • Impossible to stop reading
  • All original content from James Patterson




What you are holding in your hands right now is a collection of BookShots.

BookShots are page-turning stories by James Patterson that can be read in one sitting.

Each and every one is fast-paced, 100% story-driven; a shot of pure entertainment guaranteed to satisfy.

Available as compact paperbacks, ebooks, and audio, everywhere books are sold.

BookShots—the ultimate form of storytelling.

From the ultimate storyteller.

Chapter 1

It was that crazy period between Thanksgiving and Christmas when work overflowed, time raced, and there wasn’t enough light between dawn and dusk to get everything done.

Still, our gang of four, what we call the Women’s Murder Club, always had a spouse-free holiday get-together dinner of drinks and bar food.

Yuki Castellano had picked the place.

It was called Uncle Maxie’s Top Hat and was a bar and grill that had been a fixture in the Financial District for 150 years. It was decked out with art deco prints and mirrors on the walls, and a large, neon-lit clock behind the bar dominated the room. Maxie’s catered to men in smart suits and women in tight skirts and spike heels who wore good jewelry.

I liked the place and felt at home there in a Mickey Spillane kind of way. Case in point: I was wearing straight-legged pants, a blue gabardine blazer, a Glock in my shoulder holster, and flat lace-up shoes. I stood in the bar area, slowly turning my head as I looked around for my BFFs.

“Lindsay. Yo.”

Cindy Thomas waved her hand from the table tucked under the spiral staircase. I waved back, moved toward the nook inside the cranny. Claire Washburn was wearing a trench coat over her scrubs, with a button on the lapel that read SUPPORT OUR TROOPS. She peeled off her coat and gave me a hug and a half.

Cindy was also in her work clothes: cords and a bulky sweater, with a peacoat slung over the back of her chair. If I’d ducked under the table, I’m sure I would have seen steel-toed boots. Cindy was a crime reporter of note, and she was wearing her on-the-job hound dog clothes.

She blew me a couple of kisses, and Yuki stood up to give me her seat and a jasmine-scented smack on the cheek. She had clearly come from court, where she worked as a pro bono defense attorney for the poor and hopeless. Still, she was dressed impeccably, in pinstripes and pearls.

I took the chair across from Claire. She sat between Cindy and Yuki with her back to the room, and we all scooched up to the smallish glass-and-chrome table.

If it hasn’t been said, we four are a mutual heart, soul, and work society in which we share our cases and views of the legal system, as well as our personal lives. Right now the girls were worried about me.

Three of us were married—me, Claire, and Yuki—and Cindy had a standing offer of a ring and vows to be exchanged in Grace Cathedral. Until very recently you couldn’t have found four more happily hooked-up women. Then the bottom fell out of my marriage to Joe Molinari, the father of my child and a man I shared everything with, including my secrets.

We had had it so good, we kissed and made up before our fights were over. It was the typical: “You are right.” “No, you are!”

Then Joe went missing during possibly the worst weeks of my life.

I’m a homicide cop, and I know when someone is telling me the truth and when things do not add up.

Joe missing in action had not added up. Because of that I had worried almost to panic. Where was he? Why hadn’t he checked in? Why were my calls bouncing off his full mailbox? Was he still alive?

As the crisscrossed threads of espionage, destruction, and mass murder were untangled, Joe finally made his curtain call with stories of his past and present lives that I’d never heard before. I found plenty of reason not to trust him anymore.

Even he would agree. I think anyone would.

It’s not news that once trust is broken, it’s damned hard to superglue it back together. And for me it might take more time and belief in Joe’s confession than I actually had.

I still loved him. We’d shared a meal when he came to see our baby, Julie. We didn’t make any moves toward getting divorced that night, but we didn’t make love, either. Our relationship was now like the Cold War in the eighties between Russia and the USA, a strained but practical peace called détente.

Now, as I sat with my friends, I tried to put Joe out of my mind, secure in the knowledge that my nanny was looking after Julie and that the home front was safe. I ordered a favorite holiday drink, a hot buttered rum, and a rare steak sandwich with Uncle Maxie’s hot chili sauce.

My girlfriends were deep in criminal cross talk about Claire’s holiday overload of corpses, Cindy’s new cold case she’d exhumed from the San Francisco Chronicle’s dead letter files, and Yuki’s hoped-for favorable verdict for her client, an underage drug dealer. I was almost caught up when Yuki said, “Linds, I gotta ask. Any Christmas plans with Joe?”

And that’s when I was saved by the bell. My phone rang.

My friends said in unison, “NO PHONES.”

It was the rule, but I’d forgotten—again.

I reached into my bag for my phone, saying, “Look, I’m turning it off.”

But I saw that the call was from Rich Conklin, my partner and Cindy’s fiancé. She recognized his ring tone on my phone.

“There goes our party,” she said, tossing her napkin into the air.

“Linds?” said Conklin.

“Rich, can this wait? I’m in the middle—”

“It’s Kingfisher. He’s in a shoot-out with cops at the Vault. There’ve been casualties.”

“But—Kingfisher is dead.

“Apparently, he’s been resurrected.”

Chapter 2

My partner was double-parked and waiting for me outside Uncle Maxie’s, with the engine running and the flashers on. I got into the passenger seat of the unmarked car, and Richie handed me my vest. He’s that way, like a younger version of a big brother. He thinks of me, watches out for me, and I try to do the same for him.

He watched me buckle up, then he hit the siren and stepped on the gas.

We were about five minutes from the Vault, a class A nightclub on the second floor of a former Bank of America building.

“Fill me in,” I said to my partner.

“Call came in to 911 about ten minutes ago,” Conklin said as we tore up California Street. “A kitchen worker said he recognized Kingfisher out in the bar. He was still trying to convince 911 that it was an emergency when shots were fired inside the club.”

“Watch out on our right.”

Richie yanked the wheel hard left to avoid an indecisive panel truck, then jerked it hard right and took a turn onto Sansome.

“You okay?” he asked.

I had been known to get carsick in jerky high-speed chases when I wasn’t behind the wheel.

“I’m fine. Keep talking.”

My partner told me that a second witness reported to first officers that three men were talking to two women at the bar. One of the men yelled, “No one screws with the King.” Shots were fired. The women were killed.

“Caller didn’t leave his name.”

I was gripping both the dash and the door, and had both feet on imaginary brakes, but my mind was occupied with Kingfisher. He was a Mexican drug cartel boss, a psycho with a history of brutality and revenge, and a penchant for settling his scores personally.

Richie was saying, “Patrol units arrived as the shooters were attempting to flee through the front entrance. Someone saw the tattoo on the back of the hand of one of the shooters. I talked to Brady,” Conklin said, referring to our lieutenant. “If that shooter is Kingfisher and survives, he’s ours.”

Chapter 3

I wanted the King on death row for the normal reasons. He was to the drug and murder trade as al-Baghdadi was to terrorism. But I also had personal reasons.

Earlier that year a cadre of dirty San Francisco cops from our division had taken down a number of drug houses for their own financial gain. One drug house in particular yielded a payoff of five to seven million in cash and drugs. Whether those cops knew it beforehand or not, the stolen loot belonged to Kingfisher—and he wanted it back.

The King took his revenge but was still short a big pile of dope and dollars.

So he turned his sights on me.

I was the primary homicide inspector on the dirty-cop case.

Using his own twisted logic, the King demanded that I personally recover and return his property. Or else.

It was a threat and a promise, and of course I couldn’t deliver.

From that moment on I had protection all day and night, every day and night, but protection isn’t enough when your tormentor is like a ghost. We had grainy photos and shoddy footage from cheap surveillance cameras on file. We had a blurry picture of a tattoo on the back of his left hand.

That was all.

After his threat I couldn’t cross the street from my apartment to my car without fear that Kingfisher would drop me dead in the street.

A week after the first of many threatening phone calls, the calls stopped. A report came in from the Mexican federal police saying that they had turned up the King’s body in a shallow grave in Baja. That’s what they said.

I had wondered then if the King was really dead. If the freaking nightmare was truly over.

I had just about convinced myself that my family and I were safe. Now the breaking news confirmed that my gut reaction had been right. Either the Mexican police had lied, or the King had tricked them with a dead doppelganger buried in the sand.

A few minutes ago the King had been identified by a kitchen worker at the Vault. If true, why had he surfaced again in San Francisco? Why had he chosen to show his face in a nightclub filled with people? Why shoot two women inside that club? And my number one question: Could we bring him in alive and take him to trial?

Please, God. Please.

Chapter 4

Our car radio was barking, crackling, and squealing at a high pitch as cars were directed to the Vault, in the middle of the block on Walnut Street. Cruisers and ambulances screamed past us as Conklin and I closed in on the scene. I badged the cop at the perimeter, and immediately after, Rich backed our car into a gap in the pack of law enforcement vehicles, parking it across the street from the Vault.

The Vault was built of stone block. It had two centered large glass doors, now shattered, with a half-circular window across the doorframe. Flanking the doors were two tall windows, capped with demilune windows, glass also shot out.

Shooters inside the Vault were using the granite doorframe as a barricade as they leaned out and fired on the uniformed officers positioned behind their car doors.

Conklin and I got out of our car with our guns drawn and crouched beside our wheel wells. Adrenaline whipped my heart into a gallop. I watched everything with clear eyes, and yet my mind flooded with memories of past shoot-outs. I had been shot and almost died. All three of my partners had been shot, one of them fatally.

And now I had a baby at home.

A cop at the car to my left shouted, “Christ!”

Her gun spun out of her hand and she grabbed her shoulder as she dropped to the asphalt. Her partner ran to her, dragged her toward the rear of the car, and called in, “Officer down.” Just then SWAT arrived in force with a small caravan of SUVs and a ballistic armored transport vehicle as big as a bus. The SWAT commander used his megaphone, calling to the shooters, who had slipped back behind the fortresslike walls of the Vault.

“All exits are blocked. There’s nowhere to run, nowhere to hide. Toss out the guns, now.”

The answer to the SWAT commander was a fusillade of gunfire that pinged against steel chassis. SWAT hit back with automatic weapons, and two men fell out of the doorway onto the pavement.

The shooting stopped, leaving an echoing silence.

The commander used his megaphone and called out, “You. Put your gun down and we won’t shoot. Fair warning. We’re coming in.”

“WAIT. I give up,” said an accented voice. “Hands up, see?”

“Come all the way out. Come to me,” said the SWAT commander.

I could see him from where I stood.

The last of the shooters was a short man with a café au lait complexion, a prominent nose, dark hair that was brushed back. He was wearing a well-cut suit with a blood-splattered white shirt as he came out through the doorway with his hands up.

Two guys in tactical gear grabbed him and slammed him over the hood of an SUV, then cuffed and arrested him.

The SWAT commander dismounted from the armored vehicle. I recognized him as Reg Covington. We’d worked together before. Conklin and I walked over to where Reg was standing beside the last of the shooters.

Covington said, “Boxer. Conklin. You know this guy?”

He stood the shooter up so I could get a good look at his face. I’d never met Kingfisher. I compared the real-life suspect with my memory of the fuzzy videos I’d seen of Jorge Sierra, a.k.a. the King.

“Let me see his hands,” I said.

It was a miracle that my voice sounded steady, even to my own ears. I was sweating and my breathing was shallow. My gut told me that this was the man.

Covington twisted the prisoner’s hands so that I could see the backs of them. On the suspect’s left hand was the tattoo of a kingfisher, the same as the one in the photo in Kingfisher’s slim file.

I said to our prisoner, “Mr. Sierra. I’m Sergeant Boxer. Do you need medical attention?”

“Mouth-to-mouth resuscitation, maybe.”

Covington jerked him to his feet and said, “We’ll take good care of him. Don’t worry.”

He marched the King to the waiting police wagon, and I watched as he was shackled and chained to the bar before the door was closed.

Covington slapped the side of the van, and it took off as CSI and the medical examiner’s van moved in and SWAT thundered into the Vault to clear the scene.

Chapter 5

Conklin and I joined the patrol cops who were talking to the Vault’s freaked-out customers, now milling nervously in the taped-off section of the street.

We wanted an eyewitness description of the shooter or shooters in the act of killing two women in the bar.

That’s not what we got.

One by one and in pairs, they answered our questions about what they had seen. It all came down to statements like I was under the table. I was in the bathroom. I wasn’t wearing my glasses. I couldn’t see the bar. I didn’t look up until I heard screaming, and then I ran to the back.

We noted the sparse statements, took names and contact info, and asked each person to call if something occurred to him or her later. I was handing out my card when a patrolman came over, saying, “Sergeant, this is Ryan Kelly. He tends bar here. Mr. Kelly says he watched a conversation escalate into the shooting.”

Thank God.

Ryan Kelly was about twenty-five, with dark, spiky hair. His skin was pale with shock.

Conklin said, “Mr. Kelly, what can you tell us?”

Kelly didn’t hesitate.

“Two women were at the bar, both knockouts, and they were into each other. Touching knees, hands, the like. The blonde was in her twenties, tight black dress, drinking wine coolers. The other was brunette, in her thirties but in great shape, drinking a Scotch on the rocks, in a white dress, or maybe it was beige.

“Three guys, looked Mexican, came over. They were dressed right, between forty and fifty, I’d say. The brunette saw their reflections in the backbar mirror and she jumped. Like, Oh, my God. Then she introduced the blonde as ‘my friend Cameron.’”

The bartender was on a roll and needed no encouragement to keep talking. He said there had been some back-and-forth among the five people, that the brunette had been nervous but the short man with the combed-back hair had been super calm and played with her.

“Like he was glad to meet her friend,” said Kelly. “He asked me to mix him a drink called a Pastinaca. Has five ingredients that have to be poured in layers, and I had no open elderflower. There was a new bottle under the bar. So I ducked down to find it among a shitload of other bottles.

“Then I heard someone say in a really strong voice, ‘No one screws with the King.’ Something like that. There’s a shot, and another right after it. Loud pop, pop. And then a bunch more. I had, like, a heart attack and flattened out on the floor behind the bar. There was screaming like crazy. I stayed down until our manager found me and said, ‘Come on. Get outta here.’”

I asked, “You didn’t see who did the shooting?”

Kelly said, “No. Okay for me to go now? I’ve told this to about three of you. My wife is going nuts waiting for me at home.”

We took Kelly’s contact information, and when Covington signaled us that the Vault was clear, Conklin and I gloved up, stepped around the dead men, their spilled blood, guns, and spent shells in the doorway, and went inside.

Chapter 6

I knew the Vault’s layout: the ground floor of the former bank had been converted into a high-end haberdashery. Access to the nightclub upstairs was by the elevators at the rear of the store.

Conklin and I took in the scene. Bloody shoe prints tracked across the marble floors. Toppled clothing racks and mannequins lay across the aisles, but nothing moved.

We crossed the floor with care and took an elevator to the second-floor club, the scene of the shooting and a forensics investigation disaster.

Tables and chairs had been overturned in the customers’ rush toward the fire exit. There were no surveillance cameras, and the floor was tacky with spilled booze and blood.

We picked our way around abandoned personal property and over to the long, polished bar, where two women in expensive clothing lay dead. One, blond, had collapsed across the bar top, and the other, dark-haired, had fallen dead at her feet.

The lighting was soft and unfocused, but still, I could see that the blond woman had been shot between the eyes and had taken slugs in her chest and arms. The woman on the floor had a bullet hole through the draped white silk across her chest, and there was another in her neck.

“Both shot at close range,” Richie said.

He plucked a beaded bag off the floor and opened it, and I did the same with the second bag, a metallic leather clutch.

According to their driver’s licenses, the brunette was Lucille Alison Stone and the blonde was Cameron Whittaker. I took pictures, and then Conklin and I carefully cat-walked out of the bar the way we had come.

As we were leaving, we passed Charlie Clapper, our CSI director, coming in with his crew.

Clapper was a former homicide cop and always looked like he’d stepped out of a Grecian Formula commercial. Neat. Composed. With comb marks in his hair. Always thorough, never a grandstander, he was one of the SFPD’s MVPs.

“What’s your take?” he asked us.

“It was overkill,” I said. “Two women were shot to death at point-blank range and then shot some more. Three men were reportedly seen talking to them before the shooting. Two of them are in your capable hands until Claire takes them. We have one alive, being booked now.”

“The news is out. You think he’s Kingfisher.”

“Could be. I hope so. I really hope this is our lucky day.”

Chapter 7

Before the medical examiner had retrieved the women’s bodies, while CSI was beginning the staggering work involved in processing a bar full of fingerprints and spent brass and the guns, Conklin and I went back to the Hall of Justice and met with our lieutenant, Jackson Brady.

Brady was platinum blond, hard bodied, and chill, a former narcotics detective from Miami. He had proven his smarts and his astonishing bravery with the SFPD over the last couple of years and had been promoted quickly to run our homicide squad.

His corner office had once been mine, but being head of paperwork and manpower deployment didn’t suit my temperament. I liked working crime on the street. I hadn’t wanted to like Brady when he took the lieutenant job, but I couldn’t help myself. He was tough but fair, and now he was married to my dear friend Yuki Castellano. Today I was very glad that Brady had a history in narcotics, homicide, and organized crime.

Conklin and I sat with him in his glass-walled office and told him what we knew. It would be days before autopsies were done and guns and bullets were matched up with dead bodies. But I was pretty sure that the guns would not be registered, there would be no prints on file, and law enforcement might never know who owned the weapons that killed those women.

I said, “Their car was found on Washington—stolen, of course. The two dead men had both Los Toros and Mala Sangre tats. We’re waiting for ID from Mexican authorities. One of the dead women knew Kingfisher. Lucille Alison Stone. She lived on Balboa, the thirty-two hundred block. Has a record. Shoplifting twice and possession of marijuana, under twenty grams. She comes up as a known associate of Jorge Sierra. That’s it for her.”

“And the other woman? Whittaker?”

“According to the bartender, who read their body language, Whittaker might be the girlfriend’s girlfriend. She’s a schoolteacher. Has no record.”

Brady said, “Barry Schein, ADA. You know him?”

“Yes,” Conklin and I said in unison.

“He’s on his way up here. We’ve got thirty-six hours to put together a case for the grand jury while they’re still convened. If we don’t indict our suspect pronto, the FBI is going to grab him away from us. Ready to take a crack at the man who would be King?”

“Be right back,” I said.

The ladies’ room was outside the squad room and down the hall. I went in, washed my face, rinsed out my mouth, reset my ponytail. Then I walked back out into the hallway where I could get a signal and called Mrs. Rose.


On Sale
Oct 17, 2016
Page Count
464 pages

James Patterson

About the Author

James Patterson is the world’s bestselling author, best known for his many enduring fictional characters and series, including Alex Cross, the Women’s Murder Club, Michael Bennett, Maximum Ride, Middle School, I Funny, and Jacky Ha-Ha. Patterson’s writing career is characterized by a single mission: to prove to everyone, from children to adults, that there is no such thing as a person who “doesn’t like to read,” only people who haven’t found the right book. He’s given over a million books to schoolkids and over forty million dollars to support education, and endowed over five thousand college scholarships for teachers. He writes full-time and lives in Florida with his family.

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