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The 8th Confession

Someone is killing the richest people in the city—and it's the Women's Murder Club's scariest investigation ever.

APPEARANCES CAN BE DECEIVING
At the party of the year, San Francisco's most glamorous millionaires mingle...while someone is watching—waiting for a chance to take vengeance on Isa and Ethan Bailey, the city's most celebrated couple. Finally, the killer pinpoints the ideal moment, and it's the perfect murder.

BUT THE TRUTH CAN BE DEADLY
While Detective Lindsay Boxer investigates the high-profile killings, someone else is found brutally executed—a preacher with a message of hope for the homeless. His death nearly falls through the cracks, but reporter Cindy Thomas hears about it and soon discovers the victim may not have been quite as saintly as everyone thought.

LET THE CONFESSIONS BEGIN
As the hunt for two criminals tests the limits of the Women's Murder Club, Lindsay sees sparks fly between Cindy and Lindsay's partner, Detective Rich Conklin. The Women's Murder Club now faces its toughest challenge: Will love destroy all that four friends have built? James Patterson serves up a double dose of speed-charged twists and shocking revelations. And remember, this is the only Murder Club episode of the year.

Prologue | BUS STOP

Three

WATER STREAMED from fire hoses, dousing flame. Metal sizzled and the air turned rancid.

I found Chuck Hanni, arson investigator and explosion expert, stooping outside the school bus's side door. He had his hair slicked back, and he wore khakis and a denim shirt, sleeves rolled up, showing the old burn scar that ran from the base of his right thumb to his elbow.

Hanni looked up, said, "God-awful disaster, Lindsay."

He walked me through what he called a "catastrophic explosion," showed me the two adult-size "crispy critters" curled between the double row of seats near the driver's side. Pointed out that the bus's front tires were full of air, the back tires, flat.

"The explosion started in the rear, not the engine compartment. And I found this."

Hanni indicated rounded pieces of glass, conduction

tubes, and blue plastic shards melted into a mass behind the bus door.

"Imagine the explosive force," he said, pointing to a metal projectile embedded in the wall. "That's a triple beam balance," he said, "and I'm guessing the blue plastic is from a cooler. Only took a few gallons of ether and a spark to do all this..."

A wave of his hand to indicate the three blocks of utter destruction.

I heard hacking coughs and boots crunching on glass. Conklin, his six-foot-two frame materializing out of the haze. "There's something you guys should see before the bomb squad throws us outta here."

Hanni and I followed Conklin across the intersection to where a man's body lay folded up against a lamppost.

Conklin said, "A witness saw this guy fly out of the bus's windshield when it blew."

The dead man was Hispanic, his face sliced up, his hair in dyed-red twists matted with blood, his body barely covered in the remnants of an electric-blue sweatshirt and jeans, his skull bashed in from his collision with the lamppost. From the age lines in his face, I guessed this man had lived a hard forty years. I dug his wallet out of his hip pocket, opened it to his driver's license.

"His name is Juan Gomez. According to this, he's only twenty-three."

Hanni bent down, peeled back the dead man's lips. I saw two broken rows of decayed stubs where his teeth had once been.

"A tweaker," Hanni said. "He was probably the cook. Lindsay, this case belongs to Narcotics, maybe the DEA."

Hanni punched buttons on his cell phone as I stared down at Juan Gomez's body. First visible sign of methamphetamine use is rotten teeth. It takes a couple of years of food- and sleep-deprivation to age a meth head twenty years. By then, the drug would have eaten away big hunks of his brain.

Gomez was on his way out before the explosion.

"So the bus was a mobile meth lab?" said Conklin.

Hanni was on hold for Narcotics.

"Yep," he said. "Until it blew all to hell."

Copyright © 2009 by James Patterson

Read by Carolyn McCormick

Carolyn McCormick has appeared in the films A Simple Twist of Fate and Enemy Mine. She has starred as Dr. Olivet on television's Law & Order for the past twelve years, and as a guest on The Practice and Star Trek. Her Broadway credits include roles in The Dinner Party and Private Lives. She read 7th Heaven by James Patterson for Hachette Audio.

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