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3rd Degree

The #1 bestselling new mystery series of the past decade comes roaring back with 3rd Degree, a shockingly suspenseful thriller featuring the Women's Murder Club.

One of James Patterson's best loved heroines is about to die. Detective Lindsay Boxer is jogging along a beautiful San Francisco street when a fiery explosion rips through the neighborhood. A town house owned by an Internet millionaire is immediately engulfed in flames, and when Lindsay plunges inside to search for survivors, she finds three people dead. An infant who lived in the house cannot be found - and a mysterious message at the scene leaves Lindsay and the San Francisco Police Department completely baffled.

Then a prominent businessman is found murdered under bizarre circumstances, with another mysterious message left behind by the killer. Lindsay asks her friends Claire Washburn of the medical examiner's office, Assistant D.A. Jill Bernhardt, and Chronicle reporter Cindy Thomas to help her figure out who is committing these murders-and why they are intent on killing someone every three days.

Even more terrifying, the killer has targeted one of the four friends who call themselves the Women's Murder Club.

Which one will it be?

While the investigation rages furiously, Lindsay works very closely with a federal officer assigned to the case. At the same time, she learns that one member of the Women's Murder Club is hiding a secret so dangerous and unbelievable that it could destroy them all.

Chapter 5

FROM THE BACK of a basement closet, Claire Washburn pulled out an old, familiar case she hadn't seen in years. "Oh, my God. . ."

She had woken up early that morning, and after a cup of coffee on the deck, hearing the jays back for the first time that season, she threw on a denim shirt and jeans and set out on the dreaded task of cleaning out the basement closet. First to go were the stacks of old board games they hadn't played in years. Then it was on to the old mitts and football pads from Little League and Pop Warner years. A quilt folded up that was now just a dust convention.

Then she came upon the old aluminum case buried under a musty blanket. My God.

Her old cello. Claire smiled at the memory. Good Lord, it had been ten years since she'd held it in her hands.

She yanked it from the bottom of the closet. Just seeing it brought back a swell of memories: hours and hours of learning the scales, practicing. "A house without music," her mother used to say, "is a house without life." Her husband Edmund's fortieth birthday, when she had struggled through the first movement of Haydn's Concerto in D - the last time she had played.

Claire unsnapped the clips and stared at the wood grain on the cello. It was still beautiful, a scholarship gift from the music department at Hampton. Before she realized she would never be a Yo-Yo Ma and headed to med school, it had been her most cherished possession.

A melody popped into her head. That same, difficult passage that had always eluded her. The first movement of Haydn's Concerto in D. Claire looked around, as if embarrassed. What the hell, Edmund was still sleeping. No one would hear.

Claire lifted her cello out of the felt mold. She took out the bow, held it in her hands. Wow...

A long minute of tuning, the old strings stretching back into their accustomed notes. A single pass, just running the bow along the strings, brought back a zillion sensations. Goose bumps. She played the first bars of the concerto.

Sounded a little off, but the feel came back to her. "Ha, the old girl's still got it," she said with a laugh. She closed her eyes and played a little more.

Then she noticed Edmund, still in his pajamas, watching her, standing at the bottom of the stairs. "I know I'm out of bed" - he scratched his head - "I remember putting on my glasses, even brushing my teeth. But it can't be, 'cause I must be dreaming."

Edmund hummed the opening bars that Claire had just played. "So, you think you can finish off the next passage? That's the tricky part."

"Is that a dare, Maestro Washburn?" Edmund smiled mischievously.

It was then that the phone rang. Edmund picked up a cordless on the handset. "Saved by the bell," he groaned. "It's the office. On Sunday, Claire. Can't they ever give you a break?" Claire took the phone. It was Freddie Rodriguez, a staffer at the ME's office. Claire listened, then she set down the phone.

"My God, Edmund ...there's been an explosion downtown! Lindsay's been hurt."

Copyright © 2004 by James Patterson

Read by Carolyn McCormick
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