The Women's Murder Club pursues two cases in an electrifying new thriller–chasing a deranged killer and searching for a murderer with a taste for fire.
Prologue | THE CHRISTMAS SONG
HENRY JABLONSKY'S STOMACH HEAVED. He gagged against the thick wool of the sock, pulled against his restraints, smelled the sour odor of urine. Heat puddled under his clothes. Christ. He'd wet himself. But it didn't matter. The only thing that mattered was to get out alive.
He couldn't move. He couldn't speak. But he could reason.
What could he do?
Jablonsky looked around from his place on the floor, took in the fire poker only yards away. He fixed his vision on that poker.
"Mrs. J.," Pidge called out to Peggy, shaking a small turquoise box. "This is from Henry. A Peretti necklace. Very nice. What? You have something to say?"
Pidge went over to Peggy Jablonsky and took the sock out of her mouth.
"You don't really know Dougie, do you?" she said.
"Dougie who?" Pidge laughed.
"Don't hurt us–"
"No, no, Mrs. J.," Pidge said, stuffing the sock back into his captive's mouth. "No don'ts. This is our game. Our rules."
The kitten pounced into the heap of wrapping paper as the gifts were opened; the diamond earrings, the Hermès tie, and the Jensen salad tongs, Jablonsky praying that they would just take the stuff and leave. Then he heard Pidge speak to Hawk, his voice more subdued than before, so that Jablonsky had to strain to hear over the blood pounding in his ears.
"Well? Guilty or not guilty?" Pidge asked.
Hawk's voice was thoughtful. "The J.'s are living well, and if that's the best revenge . . ."
"You're kidding me, dude. That's totally bogus."
Pidge stepped over the pillowcase filled with the contents of the Jablonskys' safe. He spread the Bradbury book open on the lamp table with the span of his hand, then picked up a pen and carefully printed on the title page.
Pidge read it back. "Sic erat in fatis, man. It is fated. Get the kit- cat and let's go."
Hawk bent over, said, "Sorry, dude. Mrs. Dude." He took the sock out of Jablonsky's mouth. "Say good- bye to Peggy."
Henry Jablonsky's mind scrambled. What? What was happening? And then he realized. He could speak! He screamed "Pegg-yyyyy" as the Christmas tree bloomed with a bright yellow glare, then went up in a great exhalation of flame.
Heat rose and the skin on Henry Jablonsky's cheeks dried like paper. Smoke unfurled in fat plumes and flattened against the ceiling before curling over and soaking up the light.
"Don't leave us!"
He saw the flames climbing the curtains, heard his dear love's muffled screams as the front door slammed shut.
Copyright © 2008 by James Patterson
Carolyn McCormick has appeared in the films A Simple Twist of Fate and Enemy Mine. She has appeared on television as Dr. Olivit on Law & Order, and as a guest on The Practice and Star Trek. Her Broadway credits include roles in The Dinner Party and Private Lives. She read 4th of July, The 5th Horseman, and 6th Target by James Patterson for Hachette Audio.
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