Extracts

Extract: The 24th Hour by James Patterson

When a celebration becomes a crime scene, the Women's Murder Club must investigate. But how do you fight a court case when the victim's memory can't be trusted? And can Detective Lindsay Boxer outsmart a high-society killer, or will tragedy strike at The 24th Hour?

The hardback edition of The 24th Hour by James Patterson is shown in front of a fiery background image.

Chapter One

I WAS LATE getting back from the men’s jail in San Bruno. I braked the squad car in front of the Hall of Justice, where my good friend Assistant District Attorney Yuki Castellano was waiting at the curb.

She got into the car and asked, “How’d it go?”

Yuki is a prosecutor. Interrogation is her thing.

I said, “An inmate called Brandt got word to me that he knew who shot Holly Fricke and wanted to make a deal. It should have been one-stop shopping, but I had to sign six forms, wait for a free room, wait some more for Brandt to be brought down . . .”

“And then?” Yuki asked.

“He’s a pathetic liar. I heard him out, laughed, and left. Anyway, sorry, Yuki. You called ahead?”

“Yep, yep, yep. Claire said don’t worry. She and Cindy are having fun. Said something about caviar.”

Yuki grinned into my sour expression.

“Did she tell you?” she asked.

I smiled for real. “Cindy? No. But I have confidential informants.”

Yuki laughed her high-pitched musical chortle.

“It’s going to be great,” she said.

“What part?”

“Allllll of it.”

I agreed. Cindy and my longtime friend and partner, Rich Conklin, had finally both committed at the same time to getting married. It was a bell ringer. The two of them had been living together, playing house, for several years, both in love, but still stuck on an obstacle. Cindy was building her dangerous, satisfying career and didn’t want to have children—yet. Richie was from a big family, and to him children had to happen. The obstacle had somehow been sidelined. But Cindy was keeping the details to herself. Besides, today’s celebration was for Claire.

Cindy, Yuki, and I had saved up for Claire’s birthday, and today was the day.

Yuki was perfectly dressed in a pencil skirt and a blazer over a silk blouse just right for Xe Sogni, the hottest and most expensive place to eat in the entire Bay Area.

I hadn’t had time to change out of my everyday Homicide detective gear: blue pants, button-down shirt, blue blazer, badge on a chain around my neck. I freed my lapel from the shoulder belt and tipped the rearview mirror toward me.

“You look fine,” Yuki said.

I said, “Well, hair and makeup didn’t show up this morning.”

“It’s just lunch. Okay?” she said.

“This time with a cake and candles.”

We both laughed and I turned my mind to Claire. I wanted her to have a birthday she would remember for years. If we got there this year.

As I sweated the noontime rush, traffic slowed even more. Horns blew. I was tempted to hit my lights and sirens, but instead, I pounded the wheel with my palms. “Come onnn.”

Yuki looked at me like, Chill, Lindsay. And just then the traffic moved.

“And we’re off,” she said.

I floored it and five minutes later we saw the restaurant just up ahead, a plain brick building disguising a culinary gem. I pulled up to the curb and valets opened doors and whisked the squad car away.

The restaurant’s main room was dimly lit, banked on our right with an open kitchen, lined to our left with mahogany dining tables and large contemporary artwork. The air smelled indescribably delicious.

Yuki said, “The Women’s Murder Club is in the house.”

I followed her finger and saw Cindy and Claire sitting at a table for four near a spiral staircase. They were both grinning. Claire, dressed in navy-blue silk, had never looked happier. Yuki and I pulled out chairs and joined them. Waiters fussed. As Yuki predicted, we were in time for the caviar course presented with a curl of salmon in a scallop-shell dish.

God, this was good.

We were joking and roasting the birthday girl as the next course was served—then a woman screamed, loud enough to lift the roof.

“Nooooooo!”

Our waiter dropped a water glass. I grabbed his sleeve and showed him my badge.

“What’s up there?”

“Staff ch-ch-changing room.”

I got to my feet, knocking over my chair, and started up the corkscrew staircase. I took two steps at a time, and when I was halfway up, I heard a man shout, “You crazy bitch!”

I pulled my gun and, with my left hand on the railing, I raced to the top of the stairs.

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