By Maxine Paetro
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A Preview of 7th Heaven
A Preview of 15th Affair
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Books by James Patterson
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A KILLER IN WAITING, Fred Brinkley slumps in the blue-upholstered banquette on the top deck of the ferry. The November sun glares down like a big white eye as the catamaran plows the San Francisco Bay, and Fred Brinkley glares right back at the sun.
A shadow falls across him, a kid's voice asking, "Mister, could you take our picture?"
Fred shakes his head—no, no, no—anger winding him up like a watch spring, like a wire tightening around his head.
He wants to smash the kid like a bug.
Fred averts his eyes, sings inside his head, Ay, ay, ay, ay, Sau-sa-lito-lindo, trying to shut down the voices. He puts his hand on Bucky to comfort himself, feeling him through his blue nylon Windbreaker, but still the voices pound in his brain like a jackhammer.
Loser. Dog shit.
Gulls call out, screaming like children. Overhead, the sun burns through the overcast sky and turns him as transparent as glass. They know what he's done.
Passengers in shorts and visors line the rails, taking pictures of Angel Island, of Alcatraz, of the Golden Gate Bridge.
A sailboat flies by, mainsail double-reefed, foam flecking the rails, and Fred doubles over as the bad thing whips into his mind. He sees the boom swing. Hears the loud crack. Oh, God! The sailboat!
Someone has to pay for this!
Startling him, the ferry's engines grind into reverse and the deck vibrates as the ferry comes into dock.
Fred stands, works his way through the crowd, passing eight white tables, lines of scuffed blue chairs, his fellow ferry riders giving him the eye.
He enters the open compartment at the bow, sees a mother berating her son, a boy of nine or ten with light-brown hair. "You're driving me crazy!" the woman shouts.
Fred feels the wire snap. Someone has to pay.
His right hand slips into his jacket pocket—finds Bucky.
He slips his finger into the trigger loop.
The ferry lurches as it bumps the mooring. People grab on to one another, laughing. Lines snake out from the boat, bow and aft.
Fred's eyes shoot to the woman who is still belittling her son. She's small, wearing tan clam diggers, her breasts outlined in the soft skin of her white blouse, nipples pointing straight out.
"What's wrong with you, anyway?" she yells over the engines' roar. "You really piss me off, buster."
Bucky is in Fred's hand, the Smith & Wesson Model 10, pulsing with a life of its own.
The voice booms, Kill her. Kill her. She's out of control!
Bucky points between the woman's breasts.
Fred feels the jolt of the gun's recoil, sees the woman jump back with a little hurt yelp, a red stain blooming on her white blouse.
The little boy follows his mother's fall to the deck with his big round eyes, strawberry ice cream plopping out of his cone, pee spreading across the front of his pants.
The boy did a bad thing, too.
BLINDING WHITE SAILS fill Fred's mind as blood spills onto the deck. Trusty Bucky is hot in his hand. Fred's eyes pan across the deck.
The voice in his head roars, Run. Get away. You didn't mean to do it.
Out of the corner of his eye, Fred sees a big man charge him, rage on his face, hell in his eyes. Fred straightens his arm.
Another man, Asian, hard black eyes, a white line for a mouth, makes a grab for Bucky.
A black woman stands nearby, locked in place by the crowd. She turns toward him, round cheeked, wide-eyed. Stares into his face and… reads his mind.
"Okay, son," she says, reaching out a trembling hand, "that's enough, now. Give me the gun."
She knows what he did. How does she know?
Fred feels relief flood through him as the mind-reading woman goes down. People in the small forward compartment move in waves, cowering, shifting left, then right as Fred swings his head.
They are afraid of him. Afraid of him.
At his feet, the black woman holds a cell phone in her bloody hands. Breath rasping, she presses numbers with her thumb. No, you don't! Fred steps on the woman's wrist. Then he bends low to look into her eyes.
"You should have stopped me," he says through clenched teeth. "That was your job." Bucky screws his muzzle into her temple.
"Don't!" she begs. "Please."
Someone yells, "Mom!"
A skinny black kid, maybe seventeen, eighteen, comes toward him with a length of pipe over his shoulder. He's holding it like a bat.
Fred pulls the trigger as the ship lurches—BLAM.
The shot goes wide. The metal pipe falls, skitters across the deck, and the kid runs to the woman, throws himself down. Protecting her?
People dive under the benches, and their screams rise up around him like licks of fire.
The noise of the engines is joined by the metallic clanking of the gangway locking into place. Bucky stays trained on the crowd as Fred looks over the railing.
He judges the distance.
It's a drop of four feet to the gangway substructure, then a pretty long leap to the dock.
Fred pockets Bucky and puts both hands on the rail. He vaults over and lands on the flats of his Nikes. A cloud crosses the sun, cloaking him, making him invisible.
Move quickly, sailor. Go.
And he does it—makes the leap to the dock and runs toward the farmer's market, where he dissolves into the throng filling the parking lot.
He walks, almost casually, a half block to Embarcadero.
He's humming when he jogs down the steps to the BART station, still humming as he catches the train home.
You did it, sailor.
DO YOU KNOW THIS MAN?
I WAS OFF DUTY that Saturday morning in early November, called to the scene of a homicide because my business card had been found in the victim's pocket.
I stood inside the darkened living room of a two-family house on Seventeenth Street, looking down at a wretched little scuzzball named Jose Alonzo. He was shirtless, paunchy, slumped on a sagging couch of indeterminate color, his wrists cuffed behind him. His head hung to his chest, and tears ran down his chin.
I had no pity for him.
"Was he Mirandized?" I asked Inspector Warren Jacobi, my former partner who now reported to me. Jacobi had just turned fifty-one and had seen more homicide victims in his twenty-five years on the job than any ten cops should see in a lifetime.
"Yeah, I did it, Lieutenant. Before he confessed." Jacobi's fists twitched at his sides. Disgust crossed his timeworn face.
"Do you understand your rights?" I asked Alonzo.
He nodded and began sobbing again. "I shouldn'ta done it, but she made me so mad."
A toddler with a dirty white bow in her hair, wet diapers sagging to her dimpled knees, clung to her father's leg. Her wailing just about broke my heart.
"What did Rosa do to make you mad?" I asked Alonzo. "I really want to know."
Rosa Alonzo was on the floor, her pretty face turned toward the flaking caramel-colored wall, her head split open by the iron her husband had used to knock her down, then take her life.
The ironing board had collapsed around her like a dead horse, and the smell of burned spray starch was in the air.
The last time I'd seen Rosa, she'd told me how she couldn't leave her husband because he'd said he'd hunt her down and kill her.
I wished with all my heart she'd taken the baby and run.
Inspector Richard Conklin, Jacobi's partner, the newest and youngest member of my squad, walked into the kitchen. Rich poured cat food into a bowl for an old orange tabby cat that was mewing on the red Formica table. Interesting.
"He could be alone here for a long time," Conklin said over his shoulder.
"Call animal control."
"Said they were busy, Lieutenant." Conklin turned on the taps, filled a water bowl.
Alonzo spoke up.
"You know what she said, Officer? She said, 'Get a job.' I just snapped, you understand?"
I stared at him until he turned away from me, cried out to his dead wife, "I didn't mean to do it, Rosa. Please. Give me another chance."
Jacobi reached for the man's arm, brought him to his feet, saying, "Yeah, she forgives you, pal. Let's take a ride."
The baby launched a new round of howls as Patty Whelk from Child Welfare came through the open door.
"Hey, Lindsay," she said, stepping around the victim, "who's Little Miss Precious?"
I picked up the child, took the dirty ribbon out of her curls, and handed her over to Patty.
"Anita Alonzo," I said sadly, "meet the system."
Patty and I exchanged helpless looks as she jostled the little girl into a comfortable position on her hip.
I left Patty rummaging in the bedroom for a clean diaper. While Conklin stayed behind to wait for the ME, I followed Jacobi and Alonzo out to the street.
I said, "See ya," to Jacobi and climbed into my three-year-old Explorer parked next to six yards of garbage out by the street. I'd just turned the key when my Nextel bleeped on my belt. It's Saturday. Leave me the hell alone.
I caught the call on the second ring.
It was my boss, Chief Anthony Tracchio. An unusual tightness strained his voice as he raised it over the keening sound of sirens.
"Boxer," he said, "there's been a shooting on one of the ferries. The Del Norte. Three people are dead. A couple more wounded. I need you here. Pronto."
I HAD A REALLY BAD FEELING, thinking ahead to whatever hell had brought the chief out of his comfy home in Oakland on a Saturday. The bad feeling mushroomed when I saw half a dozen black-and-whites parked at the entrance to the pier, and two more patrol cars up on the sidewalk at either end of the Ferry Building.
A patrolman called out, "This way, Lieu," and waved me down the south driveway leading to the dock.
I drove past the police prowlers, ambulances, and fire rigs, and parked outside the terminal. I opened my door and stepped out into the sixty-degree haze. About a twenty-knot breeze had whipped up a stiff chop on the bay, making the Del Norte rock at her mooring.
The police activity had excited the crowd, and a thousand people shifted between the Ferry Building and the farmer's market, taking pictures, asking cops what had happened. It was as if they could smell gunpowder and blood in the air.
I ducked under the barrier tape cordoning off the dock, nodded to cops I knew, looked up when I heard Tracchio call my name.
The chief was standing at the mouth of the Del Norte.
He was wearing a leather blazer and Dockers, and sporting his signature Vitalis comb-over. He signaled to me to come aboard. Said the spider to the fly.
I headed toward him, but before I got five feet up the gangway, I had to back up and let two paramedics pass with a rolling stretcher bouncing between them.
I dropped my eyes to the victim, a large African American woman, her face mostly covered with an oxygen mask, an IV line running into her arm. Blood soaked the sheet tucked tightly over her body.
I felt a pain in my chest, my heart catching on a full second before my brain put it together.
The victim was Claire Washburn!
My best friend had been shot on the ferry!
I grabbed the gurney, stopping its forward motion and causing the brassy blond paramedic bringing up the rear to bark at me, "Lady, out of the way!"
"I'm a cop," I said to the paramedic, pulling open my jacket to show her my badge.
"I don't care if you're God," said the blonde. "We're getting her to the ER."
My mouth was hanging open and my heart was pounding in my ears.
"Claire," I called out, walking quickly now alongside the stretcher as the gurney rumbled over the gangway and onto the asphalt. "Claire, it's Lindsay. Can you hear me?"
"What's her condition?" I asked the paramedic.
"Do you understand that we have to get her to the hospital?"
"Answer me, goddamn it!"
"I don't freaking know!"
I stood helplessly by as the paramedics opened the ambulance doors.
More than ten minutes had passed since I'd gotten Tracchio's call. Claire had been lying on the deck of the ferry all that time, losing blood, trying to breathe with a bullet hole ripped into her chest.
I gripped her hand, and tears immediately filled my eyes.
My friend turned her face to me, her eyelids fluttering as she forced them open.
"Linds," she mouthed. I moved her mask aside. "Where's Willie?" she asked me.
I remembered then—Claire's youngest son, Willie, was working for the ferry line on the weekends. That's probably why Claire had been on the Del Norte.
"We got separated," Claire gasped. "I think he went after the shooter."
CLAIRE'S EYES ROLLED UP, and she slipped away from me. The knees of the gurney buckled, and the paramedics slid the stretcher out of my grasp and into the ambulance.
The doors slammed. The siren started up its blaring whoop, and the ambulance carrying my dearest friend headed into traffic toward San Francisco General.
Time was working against us.
The shooter was gone, and Willie had gone after him.
Tracchio put his hand on my shoulder. "We're getting descriptions of the doer, Boxer—"
"I have to find Claire's son," I said.
I broke away from Tracchio and ran toward the farmer's market, scanning faces as I pushed past the slow-moving crowd. It was like walking through a herd of cattle.
I looked into every fricking produce stall and in between them, raked the aisles with my eyes, searching desperately for Willie—but it was Willie who found me.
He shoved his way toward me, calling my name. "Lindsay! Lindsay!"
The front of his T-shirt was soaked with blood. He was panting, and his face was rigid with fear.
I grabbed his shoulders with both hands, tears welling up again.
"Willie, where are you hurt?"
He shook his head. "This isn't my blood. My mom's been shot."
I pulled him to me, hugged him to my chest, felt some of my terrible fear leaving me. At least Willie was okay.
"She's on her way to the hospital," I said, wishing I could add, She'll be fine. "You saw the shooter? What does he look like?"
"He's a skinny white man," Willie said as we bumped through the mob. "Has a beard, long brown hair. He kept his eyes down, Lindsay. I never saw his eyes."
"How old is he?"
"Like, maybe a few years younger than you."
"Yeah. And he's taller than me. Maybe six foot one, wearing cargo pants and a blue Windbreaker. Lindsay, I heard him say to my mom that she was supposed to stop the shooting. That it was her job. What's that supposed to mean?"
Claire is chief medical examiner of San Francisco. She's a forensic pathologist, not a cop.
"You think it was personal? That he targeted your mom? Knew her?"
Willie shook his head. "I was helping to tie up the boat when the screaming started," he told me. "He shot some other people first. My mom was the last one. He had a gun right up to her head. I grabbed an iron pipe," he said. "I was going to brain him with it, but he shot at me. Then he jumped overboard. I went after him—but I lost him."
It really hit me then.
What Willie had done. My voice was loud, and I grabbed his shoulders.
"What if you'd caught up with him? Willie, did you think about that? That 'skinny white man' was armed. He would have killed you."
Tears jumped out of Willie's eyes, rolled down his sweet, young face. I relaxed my grip on his shoulders, took him into my arms.
"But you were very brave, Willie," I said. "You were very brave to stand up to a killer to protect your mom.
"I think you saved her life."
I KISSED WILLIE'S CHEEK through the open patrol-car window. Then Officer Pat Noonan drove Willie to the hospital and I boarded the ferry, joining Tracchio in the open front compartment of the Del Norte's top deck.
It was a scene of unforgettable horror. Bodies lying where they'd fallen on the thirty or forty square yards of bloody fiberglass deck, footprints leaving tracks in all directions. Articles of clothing had been dropped here and there—a red baseball cap was squashed underfoot, mixed with paper cups and hot dog wrappers and newspapers soaked in blood.
I felt a sickening wave of despair. The killer could be anywhere, and evidence that might lead us to him had been lost every time a cop or a passenger or a paramedic walked across the deck.
Plus, I couldn't stop thinking about Claire.
"You okay?" Tracchio asked me.
I nodded, afraid that if I started to cry, I wouldn't be able to stop.
"This is Andrea Canello," Tracchio said, pointing to the body of a woman in tan pants and a white blouse lying up against the hull. "According to that fellow over there," he said, pointing to a teenager with spiky hair and a sunburned nose, "the doer shot her first. Then he shot her son. A little kid. About nine."
"The boy going to make it?" I asked.
Tracchio shrugged. "He lost a lot of blood." He pointed to another body, a male Caucasian, white haired, looked to be in his fifties, lying halfway under a bench.
"Per Conrad. Engineer. Worked on the ferry. Probably heard the shots and tried to help. And this fellow," he said, indicating an Asian man lying flat on his back in the center of the deck, "is Lester Ng. Insurance salesman. Another guy who could have been a hero. Witnesses say it all went down in two or three minutes."
I started picturing the scene in my head, using what Willie had told me, what Tracchio was telling me now, looking at the evidence, trying to fit the pieces into something that made sense.
I wondered if the shooting spree had been planned or if something had set the shooter off and, if so, what that trigger had been.
"One of the passengers thinks he saw the shooter sitting alone before the incident. Over there," Tracchio told me. "Thinks he was smoking a cigarette. A package of Turkish Specials was found under a table."
I followed Tracchio to the stern, where several horrified passengers sat on an upholstered bench that wrapped around the inner curve of the railing. Some of them were blood spattered. Some held hands. Shock had frozen their faces.
Uniforms were still taking down the witnesses' names and phone numbers, getting statements. Sergeant Lexi Rose turned toward us, saying, "Chief, Lieutenant. Mr. Jack Rooney here has some good news for us."
An elderly man in a bright-red nylon jacket stepped forward. He wore big-frame eyeglasses and a digital Minicam about the size of a bar of soap hanging from a black cord around his neck. He had an expression of grim satisfaction.
"I've got him right here," Rooney said, holding up his camera. "I got that psycho right in the act."
THE HEAD OF THE Crime Scene Unit, Charlie Clapper, crossed the gangway with his team and came on board moments after the witnesses were released. Charlie stopped in front of us, greeted the chief, said, "Hey, Lindsay," and took a look around.
Then he dug into the pockets of his herringbone tweed jacket, pulled out latex gloves, and snapped them on.
"This is a fine kettle of fish," he said.
"Let's try to stay positive," I said, unable to conceal the edge in my voice.
"Cockeyed optimist," he said. "That's me."
I stood with Tracchio as the CSU team fanned out, putting out markers, photographing the bodies and the blood that was spattered everywhere.
They dug out a projectile from the hull, and they bagged an item that might lead us to a killer: the half-empty packet of Turkish cigarettes that had been found under a table in the stern.
"I'm going to take off now, Lieutenant," Tracchio told me, looking down at his Rolex. "I have a meeting with the mayor."
"I want to work this case—personally," I said.
He gave me a hard, unblinking stare. I'd just pushed a hot button on his console, but it couldn't be helped.
Tracchio was a decent guy, and mostly I liked him. But the chief had come up through the ranks by way of administration. He'd never worked a case in his life, and that made him see things one way.
He wanted me to do my job from my desk.
And I did my best work on the street.
The last time I'd told Tracchio that I wanted to work cases "hands-on," he'd told me that I was ungrateful, that I had a lot to learn about leading a command, that I should do my goddamned job and feel lucky about my promotion to lieutenant.
He reminded me now, sharply, that one of my partners had been killed on the street and that only months ago, Jacobi and I had both been shot in a desolate alley in the Tenderloin. It was true. We'd both nearly died.
Today, I knew he couldn't turn me down. My best friend had a slug through her chest, and the shooter was free.
"I'll work with Jacobi and Conklin. A three-man team. I'll have McNeil and Chi back us up. Pull in the rest of the squad as needed."
Tracchio nodded reluctantly, but it was a green light. I thanked him and called Jacobi on my cell. Then I phoned the hospital, got a kindhearted nurse on the line who told me that Claire was still in surgery.
I left the scene with Jack Rooney's camera in hand, planning to look at the video back at the Hall, see the shooting for myself.
I walked down the gangway and muttered, "Nuts," before I reached the pavement. Reporters from three local TV stations and the Chronicle were waiting for me. I knew them all.
Cameras clicked and zoomed. Microphones were pushed up to my face.
"Was this a terrorist attack, Lieutenant?"
"Who did the shooting?"
"How many people were killed?"
"Give me a break, guys. The crime just happened this morning," I said, wishing these reporters had grabbed Tracchio or any one of the other four dozen cops milling around the perimeter who'd love to see themselves on the six o'clock news.
"We'll release the names of the victims after we've contacted their families.
"And we will find whoever did this terrible thing," I said with both hope and conviction. "He will not get away."
IT WAS TWO O'CLOCK in the afternoon when I introduced myself to Claire's doctor, Al Sassoon, who was standing with Claire's chart in hand at the hub of the ICU.
Sassoon was in his midforties, dark haired, with laugh lines fanning out from the corners of his mouth. He looked credible and confident, and I trusted him immediately.
"Are you investigating the shooting?" he asked me.
I nodded. "Yes, and also, Claire's my friend."
"She's a friend of mine, too." He smiled, said, "So here's what I can tell you. The bullet broke a rib and collapsed her left lung, but it missed her heart and major arteries.
"She's going to have some pain from the rib and she's going to have a chest tube inside her until that lung fully expands. But she's healthy and she's lucky. And she's got good people here watching out for her."
The tears that had been dammed up all day threatened to overflow. I lowered my eyes and croaked, "I'd like to talk to her. Claire's assailant killed three people."
"She'll wake up soon," Sassoon told me. He patted my shoulder and held open the door to Claire's room, and I walked inside.
The back of Claire's bed was raised to make it easier for her to breathe. There was a cannula in her nose and an IV bag hanging from a pole, dripping saline into a vein. Under her thin hospital gown, her chest was swaddled in bandages, and her eyes were puffy and closed. In all the years I've known Claire, I've never seen her sick. I've never seen her down.
Claire's husband, Edmund, had been sitting in the armchair beside the bed, but he jumped to his feet the moment I walked in the door.
He looked awful, his features twisted with fear and disbelief.
I set down my shopping bag and went to him for a long hug, Edmund saying into my hair, "Oh, God, Lindsay, this is too much."
I murmured all the things you say when words are just plain inadequate. "She'll be on her feet soon, Eddie. You know I'm right."
"I wonder," Edmund said when we finally stepped apart. "Even saying she heals up okay. Have you gotten over being shot?"
- On Sale
- Jan 8, 2008
- Page Count
- 416 pages
- Grand Central Publishing