Unlucky 13, p.22

Unlucky 13, page 22

 part  #13 of  Women's Murder Club Series

 

Unlucky 13
 


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  Cindy was saying, “Until Mackie Morales is in jail, I’m not going to be able to think about anything else, or even sleep. Or even eat. You think I’m obsessed?”

  I laughed.

  Cindy said, “So, that’s a yes.”

  And then we both stopped talking until we arrived safely at the sunny corner of 12th and Lake. My apartment building was directly to my right, and Cindy had parked her car just a few doors to our left. I checked out the moderate two-way traffic, the cars parked on both sides, and the trees between the cars and the storefronts.

  Then Cindy and I grabbed each other over the stroller and kissed cheeks.

  She said, “I’m calling Yuki. I need to see her.”

  We blew kisses and waved good-bye, and then I said to Julie, “Ride’s over, baby girl. Daddy is probably home already, and I think he’s going to put you down for a nap.”

  I walked toward the front door of our building with my keys in hand, and that’s when something I’d half seen, a peripheral flicker, or an instinct, gave me a chill.

  I jerked my head toward the mailbox on the corner.

  There was a woman there, wearing a long white skirt, a white drapy sweater jacket, and a straw hat with a band around it.

  She had been crossing Lake when her image imprinted itself in my mind. Now she had her back to me and was closing the letter slot on the mailbox. It made a dull, metallic clang.

  I was on high alert, but I was just scaring myself.

  Mackie Morales didn’t dress like that.

  That couldn’t be her.

  CHAPTER 107

  THE WOMAN IN the long skirt and crocheted sweater jacket turned to face me. My mind made a psychic leap, feeling a sense of danger, rather than recognition. Cold sweat broke out over my body, especially the palms of my hands, where I was gripping the handle of Julie’s stroller.

  And then I was sure.

  This was Mackie Morales, now dressed like some kind of angel, but with a gun in her hand. I’m so keyed to guns that the sight of one bypasses logical thought and goes straight to my lizard brain: fight or flight.

  But I had neither option.

  If I ran, she’d shoot me in the back.

  If I pulled my gun, Julie could get hit.

  I said, “Mackie, I’m putting the baby out of harm’s way. Put the gun down. Then we can talk.”

  “You think we give a damn about your baby?” she said.

  I shoved Julie’s stroller hard to my right so that it rolled across the sidewalk and wedged itself between two parked cars. Traffic whizzed by as I turned back to Morales.

  She was pointing her gun at me with a kind of nonchalance, as if she were in a dream. I understood the situation with crystal clarity. Morales wanted to die, but she wanted to kill me first. And with me standing ten feet away, she wouldn’t miss.

  I knew that I was going to die.

  But in my last mortal moment, my rage was focused. I was determined to put Morales down, right now.

  She said, “I’ve got her, lover. No worries.”

  She was talking to her dead psycho boyfriend.

  I went for my gun, but before I could get it out of the holster, there was a shot. Mackie yelped. Her hat blew off and she grabbed her right shoulder. But she still held on to her gun.

  Who fired that shot?

  Then I saw something that made no sense. Cindy was running up 12th Street directly toward us.

  She held a gun with one hand straight out in front of her.

  Mackie turned, took aim at Cindy, and fired.

  I had one chance only, and I took it. My first shot went into Morales’s back. She spun to face me and I fired again, center mass. She jerked, staggered back, and sat down hard. She lifted her gun hand, and aimed.

  I fired again, got her right between the eyes.

  Morales flopped back flat on the sidewalk, as if someone had cut her puppet strings. Her skirts fanned out. Her gun clattered to the sidewalk. Her hat blew into the gutter.

  Julie bawled. I had the awful thought, maybe she’s been bawling since I sent her stroller off the sidewalk.

  I screamed, “Cindy, I’m coming.”

  I checked to see that Julie wasn’t hurt, then went to my dear, sweet friend. Cindy was sitting on the sidewalk with her back up against a parked car. Blood was soaking through her pale-blue sweater.

  She looked up and said to me, “I’m hit, Lindsay.” She sighed. “Damn it. She shot me.”

  CHAPTER 108

  MY DEAR HUSBAND had heard the gunshots. He had called 911 and then run downstairs. After I told him that I was okay, he took the baby inside, saying he’d be right back.

  I sat next to Cindy on the sidewalk. She was pale, and the blood was still spreading across her sweater from what looked like a shoulder wound. I pressed a diaper against the bloodiest place and held it there, hoping she wasn’t bleeding out, that she wouldn’t go into shock.

  The waiting was awful.

  She looked so damned frail. I wanted to hug her, to hold on to her so that she didn’t slip away. I could hardly stop myself from jumping up and running out into the street to look for the ambulance.

  Cindy tried to tell me what the hell she thought she was doing with a gun. But I truly didn’t care.

  “You don’t have to explain, Cindy. The bullet you took—that thing was meant for me. If you hadn’t—look. You probably saved my damned life. So, thank you. Thank you very much.”

  “Protect my exclusive, okay?”

  “Your what? Oh. Of course. Interview me all you want, Cin. I’m exclusively yours. Until the end of time.”

  She gave me a wan smile. “That’ll be great.”

  I squeezed her hand, and two and a half minutes after Joe’s call, black-and-whites screamed into the street.

  Doors slammed. Cops advanced.

  I unclipped my badge and held it up. I identified myself to a uniformed cop from where I sat at Cindy’s side.

  “Boxer. It’s Nardone. Bob Nardone. You okay?”

  Sergeant Nardone asked what had happened, and I kept it simple.

  “The shooter was Mackenzie Morales. She’s a fugitive. Wanted by the FBI. I shot her in self-defense.”

  I was spelling out Cindy’s name and Mackie’s when incoming sirens drowned out my voice and the ambulance wailed to a stop. Paramedics swarmed around us and questioned Cindy as they lifted her onto a board.

  I struggled to my feet, then stepped over to where Morales lay in her bloodied white drapery. No one was there anymore. No one home at all. Maybe Mackie was already checking in at the gates to Hell. “Room key, please. Mr. Randy Fish is expecting me.”

  Joe called out to me.

  “Julie is with Mrs. Rose,” he said of our neighbor across the hall.

  I said, “Great. Joe. I’m going to the hospital with Cindy.”

  He said, “Take this.”

  He handed me my phone, then put his arms around me. I think I was shaking as I held him tight.

  The EMTs were closing the doors to the bus, so I broke away from my husband and told him, “I’ll call you.”

  I never made it into the ambulance because Jacobi was standing between me and the doors.

  “Jacobi. You see what happened here? It’s Morales. She’s the one who shot Cindy. I have to go with her,” I said.

  “You can’t leave, Boxer. We’ve got a fatality here. You know that.”

  I had no fight left and it wouldn’t have helped if I had. I said, “I need a minute.”

  I climbed up into the back of the bus and said to Cindy, “I’ll see you later. You’re my hero. And I love you. And Cindy? You’re going to be fine.”

  I stepped back down to the street. I gave my gun to Jacobi and walked with him to his car.

  CHAPTER 109

  MY ARMS WERE full of flowers when I burst into Cindy’s room at UCSF Medical Center.

  Cindy shouted out, “Thank God the flowers have arrived.”

  I looked around. There were flowers everywhere, lining the wi
ndow sill and on the various dinky tables, with some potted things on the floor.

  “Who died?” I asked.

  Cindy laughed. “Not me.”

  She was in the bed that was cranked up to sitting position, wearing a little pink robe. Right beside her in the bed, wearing oversize denims and a navy-blue SFDA sweatshirt, was Yuki Castellano Brady.

  “Hey—hey,” I said.

  And, yep, Claire Washburn, MD, was hovering over the two of my girls with a plastic cup of neon-green Jell-O and a spoon.

  They all looked very merry.

  “You think this is lime Jell-O, don’t you?” said Claire. “Well, you’d be wrong. This is my own brew. Made with Margarita mix.”

  I laughed. “That explains everything.”

  Since all the vases and vaselike objects were in use, I went to the bathroom, took the lid off the toilet tank and dropped the flowers in, stems down.

  When I returned, Yuki said, “There’s a no-crying rule. Okay, Linds?”

  I nodded. I was too choked up to speak, really.

  Cindy was fine. Yuki was fine.

  I went around the room and kissed each of my friends and they kissed me. There were hugs, too, long ones, no one wanting to let go. Speaking for myself, I was thinking how life could end without warning and how freakin’ wonderful it was to have moments like this.

  When we were exhausted from the hugging, I pulled over a chair for myself and sat down hard, next to the bed.

  I said, “I want what you’re having.”

  There were peals of laughter, one distinctive peal coming from Yuki.

  She said, “Was that me laughing? I haven’t done that in a while.”

  She was a little drunk, but that was appropriate. She had told me and Joe most of the horrific story, including that she’d shivved the bad guy.

  “You told everyone?” I asked her.

  “Yep. The Women’s Murder Club kicked ass this week.”

  “I’ve got Ms. Mackie’s three-eyed corpse in my cooler,” said Claire. “So I’ll drink to that.”

  Claire raised her cup of Jell-O, and just then there was a knock on the doorjamb.

  The unsung hero of the hour, the man who’d taught Cindy to shoot, was standing there. I said, “Well, I’ve gotta go now, Cindy. I hear my baby calling me.”

  Claire added, “I’ve got a baby, too, and I’m driving Yuki home. I need to get a look at Brady.”

  There was a little rustle as we gathered our things. More kisses for Cindy and then we each said hi, as we edged past my good-looking, good-doing partner, who was standing in the doorway.

  I hoped to God Cindy was well enough to handle this.

  CHAPTER 110

  CINDY SAID, “HEY, where’s everyone going?”

  The girls waved good-bye, blew kisses, and let themselves out the door, letting Richie in. Her pulse shot up. She touched her throat as he came into the room, looking great, wearing a jacket, his tie loose at the collar, fresh blue shirt, and khakis. His hair was falling over one eye.

  “Richie. Hi.”

  He looked around the room at the garden on the window sill and said, “Cindy, I would have brought flowers but a birdie told me that you have plenty.”

  He turned his eyes on her, smiled, and shook a white paper bag with a gold-foil seal holding down the flap.

  “I brought this instead.”

  “Come onnn. Chocolate orange peel? Let me see.”

  “Some grapefruit peel, too. Thought I’d mix it up a little for you.”

  Rich approached the bed, put his left hand on the rail at the far side and rested his weight on it. He leaned over, pressed his cheek to hers, then gave her a soft cheek kiss.

  Cindy breathed him in.

  He stood up and handed her the bag of candy, which she held in her lap. Then he pulled up the chair Lindsay had been sitting in.

  “Thanks, Richie.”

  He sat down and said, “Welcome. How are you doing?”

  “Pretty good. The shot missed the bone, missed the artery. I think it’s what they call in cowboy movies, ‘just a flesh wound.’” She grinned. She had rarely felt better.

  “You been drinking?”

  She kept grinning, nodded her head. “Dr. Washburn’s orders.”

  Richie laughed.

  “So, are you in a lot of pain?”

  “Not too much. I can take it. They’re checking me out in a couple of days or maybe tomorrow. Made me promise to take Cindy’s Flower Shop with me.”

  Cindy wanted him to touch her again. She could still feel his whiskers against her cheek.

  He said, “Well, anyway, did you get your story, at least?”

  “Hell, no. Lindsay killed it.”

  “Uh-huh.” He laughed, like it wasn’t right to laugh but he couldn’t help it.

  “There’s a story there, anyway,” she said. “It’s not the one I had planned, but Mackie, Lindsay, and me, intersecting in that way at that place and with that result. I can do a lot with that. I could do a lot with half of that.”

  Richie sighed. Leaned back in the chair. Ran his hands through his hair.

  “What is it, Rich?”

  She knew what. There had been guns and shooting and death. And she wasn’t a cop. And as they both knew full well, she’d never shot a gun off the range.

  “That deal could have gone so wrong, Cindy, in so many ways. I don’t like to think about it, but I do.”

  “Me, too.”

  He sighed, giving her a long, steady look. Cindy thought he was trying to convey to her what exactly she’d done, what she’d been through. And that she’d been lucky.

  “I’m glad you’re okay,” he said at last.

  She felt that. Her eyes watered just a little. She kept it together by gripping that white bag of candied citrus peel.

  “Thanks, Richie.”

  He said, “I’m glad Lindsay is okay.”

  “I know. Me, too.”

  “I love you both.”

  Cindy watched his cheeks color. He cleared his throat. Then he looked at his watch. Oh, no. He just got here.

  Richie said, “Hey, the game is on in a little while. Uh. You want me to keep you company and we’ll watch the Niners kill the Seahawks?”

  Cindy laughed. “That’s the best offer I’ve had since I got here.”

  “I’ll go out and get a pizza. Okay?”

  “Excellent.”

  “Mushrooms and sausage.”

  “Perfect.”

  Richie stood up, pointed to the chair, and said, “Keep my seat warm. I’ll be right back.”

  When Richie was gone, Cindy opened the bag of candy and bit into a chocolate-covered orange peel. Delicious.

  She rolled down the top of the bag and held it for a while, thinking about Lake Street. About Richie. About how she was very much alive.

  Hey. It would be really fun to do something with Richie again.

  Cindy put the white paper bag on the table by the bed, grabbed the clicker, and turned on the TV.

  ACKNOWLEDGMENTS

  Our thanks and gratitude to these top professionals who were so generous with their time and expertise: Captain Richard Conklin, Stamford Connecticut Police Department; Dr. Humphrey Germaniuk, medical examiner and coroner, Trumbull County, Ohio; attorneys Philip R. Hoffman and Steven A. Rabinowitz, New York City; Chuck Hanni, IAAI-CFI, and forensic science consultant Elaine M. Pagliaro, MS, JD. And special thanks to Donna Nincic, Director, ABS School of Maritime Policy and Management, Professor, California Maritime Academy.

  We are grateful to our researchers, Ingrid Taylar and Lynn Colomello, and to Mary Jordan, who keeps it all together.

  This ebook is copyright material and must not be copied, reproduced, transferred, distributed, leased, licensed or publicly performed or used in any way except as specifically permitted in writing by the publishers, as allowed under the terms and conditions under which it was purchased or as strictly permitted by applicable copyright law. Any unauthorized distribution or use of this text may
be a direct infringement of the author’s and publisher’s rights and those responsible may be liable in law accordingly.

  Version 1.0

  Epub ISBN 9781448108534

  www.randomhouse.co.uk

  Published by Century, 2014

  2 4 6 8 10 9 7 5 3 1

  Copyright © James Patterson, 2014

  James Patterson has asserted his right under the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988 to be identified as the author of this work

  This novel is a work of fiction. Names and characters are the product of the author’s imagination and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental

  First published in Great Britain in 2014 by Century

  Random House, 20 Vauxhall Bridge Road,

  London SW1V 2SA

  www.randomhouse.co.uk

  Addresses for companies within The Random House Group Limited can be found at: www.randomhouse.co.uk/offices.htm

  The Random House Group Limited Reg. No. 954009

  A CIP catalogue record for this book is available from the British Library

  Hardback ISBN 9781780890319

  Trade paperback ISBN 9781780890326

 


 

  James Patterson, Unlucky 13

 


 

 
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