A stunning stand-alone thriller following a Detroit cop's hunt for a serial killer like no other.
“Could a building sweat?
If someone were to ask him, Walter O’Brien would say no. But that was exactly what the square brick structure on the corner of Park and Woodward in downtown Detroit appeared to be doing. The faded red brick had a dull sheen on it, the moisture reflecting the streetlights, the neon from the sign above, and the headlights of the cars as they rolled by, oblivious to what was coming.
Walter wanted to throw his damn binoculars. “Why is there traffic? Shut that shit down.”
Lincoln Sealey’s gruff voice replied in his earbud a moment later. “We can’t.”
“Because nothing’s happened yet.”
They’d had this argument more times than Walter could count, and as much as he felt like he could win this time, it wasn’t worth the aggravation. Something would happen soon enough.
He looked at his watch.
The neon sign continued to blink on and off, pink and purple reflecting off the surrounding buildings and glowing in the street.
At fifty-seven, Walter shouldn’t be out here. He heard the various pops and creaks of his joints as he stood and looked out over the edge of the rooftop. His damn leg screamed. Gripping his cane, his palm was greasy with sweat.
Five stories up.
Across the street from the club.
Direct line of sight to the front entrance.
What passed for music these days churned from inside, seemed to rattle the air. This unforgiving thump, thump, thump, thump, with no break between what could loosely be defined as songs. He missed guitars. Melodies. Harmonies. He remembered when Detroit was all about the music. Music and cars. Now it was someplace you only visited if you were looking for cheap real estate.
A bouncer stood at the entrance, checking IDs with a penlight while another worked his way back through the line of about thirty people waiting behind a faded red rope. His job was apparently to pluck the best-looking girls from the wait and escort them directly in. Both bouncers were ridiculously large. The biceps on the one at the door looked bigger than Walter’s head. He had some kind of tattoo that started behind his left ear and crawled up his bald scalp. Walter couldn’t tell what it was. The tattoo seemed out of place with the man’s three-thousand-dollar suit.
Walter spotted Sealey on the roof of the federal building kitty-corner. Dressed all in black, lying on his stomach, propped up on his side so he could scan the crowd through the scope of his rifle positioned in a break meant for storm drainage. The rifle was a Paratus-16, a folding semiautomatic takedown sniper rifle that traveled in a case not much larger than a lunch box.
Red Larson came through the rooftop door about twenty feet behind Walter, quickly scanned the roof, checked his sight line to the club, and began assembling a rifle identical to Sealey’s. He spoke as he worked. “I phoned in ‘shots fired at a convenience store’ about a block down the road on Woodward. Said it sounded like automatic weapons. Maybe more than one. That should get the locals close and bring in the press. I didn’t get a chance to check the radio, but the Thirty-Second Precinct is less than two miles from here.”
“We need ambulances, not cops. Cops will get in the way.”
“They’ll send ambulances, too. Standard procedure.”
“You should have said heart attack, not shots fired.”
“We’ll need more than one ambulance.”
“I’ve planted a bomb in your club. You have two minutes to get everyone out, or you’re all dead. Do you understand?”
He was right. Walter dropped it. “Did you destroy the phone?”
Red gave him an aggravated glance, plucked the cheap burner phone from his jacket pocket, cracked it in half, and threw both pieces over the side of the building. “Yes, Mom. Absolutely.”
Walter just shook his head.
Rifle assembled, Red lowered himself to his belly, cringing as his body made more noise than Walter’s had. Red had eleven years on him. “This is a young man’s game, Walt. None of us got any business being out here.”
“We’ve got unfinished business.”
Over their earbuds, Sealey said, “It’s not too late to go back to my motel and catch the end of the Tigers game.”
“I’m saying,” Red replied.
Walter felt a tickle in his throat, pulled a handkerchief from his pocket, and caught the cough. Loud, but not as bad as some of the others. He shoved the stained cloth back into his pants before Red could see the blood. As if Red didn’t already know what was happening to him. Sealey, too, for that matter.
More unfinished business, he supposed. That one was on track to take care of itself.
He tapped Red’s foot with the toe of his shoe. “When did it rain last?”
“I look like the weatherman to you?”
“The building looks wet.”
“It’s Detroit,” he muttered, as if that was some kind of definitive answer needing no further explanation. “How’s our time?”
Walter looked at his watch. “Three minutes.”
“That’s what I’ve been told.”
“You sure about this?”
Walter wasn’t sure about much of anything, but he wasn’t about to tell Red or Sealey that. The last thing any of them needed was an excuse to back down. Instead, he asked, “You took care of the back door, right?”
It was a stupid question. He’d watched Red tack weld the door less than half an hour ago.
“Only way out is through the front,” Red replied anyway.
“You’re both loaded with regular rounds?”
Red tapped a spare clip on the ground to the left of his rifle. “Got regular in chamber. Oxys right here on deck. I’m not eff-ing senile. Not yet. We’ve got this.”
“You sure you don’t need two guns?”
He tsk ed. “I can change them out fast enough.”
“I hear sirens,” Sealey interrupted. “Two, maybe three black-and-whites. Coming in from the west.”
Locals responding to Red’s call.
“Copy,” Walter said, although he couldn’t hear them yet. He looked back at the club. “Things looked wet in Chicago. Same with that little pissant town outside of Reno back in ’94. A couple of the others, now that I think about it.”
Red shrugged. “Could be something, or could just be you wanting it to be something. Doesn’t really matter, unless we find a way to use it. If we end this tonight, no reason to give it another thought, anyway. I vote we go that route. I don’t want to do this shit again.”
“It’s raining like a bitch out west,” Sealey told them. “Probably passed through here first. Drop it and stay sharp.”
Walter looked at his watch again. “Time.”
Retrieving a burner phone from the pocket of his pants, he dialed the number he’d written on his palm in black marker.
A male voice answered, shouting over the music. “Club Stomp!”
Walter spoke slowly, doing his best to keep the anxiety from his voice. “I’ve planted a bomb in your club. You have two minutes to get everyone out, or you’re all dead. Do you understand?”
“Do you understand?” Walter repeated.
“Yes, but — ”
Extracted from Death of the Black Widow by James Patterson & JD Barker, out now.
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