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4th of July

After losing one of its own, Lindsay Boxer and the Women's Murder Club make a courageous return for their fourth and most chilling case ever--one that could easily be their last. A young girl is killed in crossfire after a routine arrest goes terribly wrong, and Lt. Lindsay Boxer has to defend herself against a charge of police brutality. In a landmark trial that transfixes the nation, Lindsay fights to save her career and her sanity.

While awaiting trial, Lindsay escapes to the beautiful town of Half Moon Bay, but the peaceful community there is reeling from a string of unspeakable murders. Working with her friends in the Women's Murder Club, Lindsay finds a link between these killings and a case she worked on years before-an unsolved murder that has haunted her ever since. As summer comes into full swing, Lindsay battles for her life on two fronts: before a judge and jury as her trial comes to a climax, and facing unknown adversaries who will do anything to keep her from the truth about the killings--including killing again. It all comes to a head before the big annual 4th of July celebration on the waterfront at Half Moon Bay. Patterson fine-tunes the tension like never before in this heart-racing new novel in the bestselling detective series to debut in years.

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Part One: Nobody Cares

Chapter 2

IT LOOKED LIKE A particularly grisly suicide, except that the spray paint can was nowhere around. I heard Charlie Clapper and his CSU team arrive and begin to unpack forensic equipment in the outer room. I stood aside as the photographer took his shots of the victim, then I yanked the extension cord out of the wall.

Charlie changed the fuse. "Thank you, Jesus," he said as light flooded the god-awful place.

I was rifling through the victim's clothes, finding not a scrap of ID, when Claire Washburn, my closest friend and San Francisco's chief medical examiner, walked through the door.

"It's pretty nasty," I told Claire as we went into the bathroom. Claire is a center of warmth in my life, more of a sister to me than my own. "I've been having an impulse."

"To do what?" Claire asked me mildly.

I swallowed hard, forcing down the gorge that kept rising in my throat. I'd gotten used to a lot of things, but I would never get used to the murder of children.

"I just want to reach in and pull out the stopper."

The victim looked even more stricken in the bright light. Claire crouched beside the tub, squeezing her size-sixteen body into a size-six space.

"Pulmonary edema," she said of the pink foam in the dead boy's nasal and oral orifices. She traced the faint bruising on the lips, around the eyes. "He was tuned up a bit before they threw the switch on him."

I pointed to the vertical gash on his cheekbone. "What do you make of that?"

"My guess? It's going to match the push-down lever on the toaster. Looks like they clocked this child with that Sunbeam before they chucked it into the tub."

The boy's hand was resting on the bathtub's rim. Claire lifted it tenderly, turned it over. "No rigor. Body's still warm and lividity is blanching. He's been dead less than twelve hours, probably less than six. No visible track marks." She ran her hands through the boy's matted hair, lifted his bruised top lip with her gloved fingers. "He hadn't seen a dentist in a while. Could be a runaway."

"Yeah," I said. Then I must've gotten quiet for a minute or so.

"Whatcha thinking, honey?"

"That I've got another John Doe on my hands."

I was remembering another teenage John Doe, a homeless kid who'd been murdered in a place like this when I was just getting started in homicide. It was one of my worst cases ever, and ten years later the death still gnawed at me.

"I'll know more when I get this young man on my table," Claire was saying when Jacobi stuck his head through the doorway again.

"The informant says that partial plate number was taken off a Mercedes," he said. "A black one."

A black Mercedes had been seen at the other electrocution murder. I grinned as I felt a surge of hope. Yes, I was making it personal. I was going to find the bastard who had killed these kids and I was going to put him away before he could do it again.

Copyright © 2005 by James Patterson

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Read by Carolyn McCormick

Carolyn McCormick has appeared in the films A SIMPLE LIFE, TWIST OF FATE and ENEMY MINE. She has appeared on television as Dr. Olivit in LAW AND ORDER for the past 12 years and as a guest on THE PRACTICE and STAR TREK. Her Broadway credits include roles in THE DINNER PARTY and PRIVATE LIVES.

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