7th Heaven Page 2

“You don’t really know Dougie, do you?” she said.

“Dougie who?” Pidge laughed.

“Don’t hurt us —”

“No, no, Mrs. J.,” Pidge said, stuffing the sock back into his captive’s mouth. “No don’ts. This is our game. Our rules.”

The kitten pounced into the heap of wrapping paper as the gifts were opened; the diamond earrings, the Hermès tie, and the Jensen salad tongs, Jablonsky praying that they would just take the stuff and leave. Then he heard Pidge speak to Hawk, his voice more subdued than before, so that Jablonsky had to strain to hear over the blood pounding in his ears.

“Well? Guilty or not guilty?” Pidge asked.

Hawk’s voice was thoughtful. “The J.’s are living well, and if that’s the best revenge . . .”

“You’re kidding me, dude. That’s totally bogus.”

Pidge stepped over the pillowcase filled with the contents of the Jablonskys’ safe. He spread the Bradbury book open on the lamp table with the span of his hand, then picked up a pen and carefully printed on the title page.

Pidge read it back. “Sic erat in fatis, man. It is fated. Get the kit-cat and let’s go.”

Hawk bent over, said, “Sorry, dude. Mrs. Dude.” He took the sock out of Jablonsky’s mouth. “Say good-bye to Peggy.”

Henry Jablonsky’s mind scrambled. What? What was happening? And then he realized. He could speak! He screamed “Pegg-yyyyy” as the Christmas tree bloomed with a bright yellow glare, then went up in a great exhalation of flame.


Heat rose and the skin on Henry Jablonsky’s cheeks dried like paper. Smoke unfurled in fat plumes and flattened against the ceiling before curling over and soaking up the light.

“Don’t leave us!”

He saw the flames climbing the curtains, heard his dear love’s muffled screams as the front door slammed shut.

Part One


Chapter 1

WE SAT IN A CIRCLE around the fire pit behind our rental cottage near the spectacular Point Reyes National Seashore, an hour north of San Francisco.

“Lindsay, hold out your glass,” Cindy said.

I tasted the margarita — it was good. Yuki stirred the oysters on the grill. My border collie, Sweet Martha, sighed and crossed her paws in front of her, and firelight made flickering patterns on our faces as the sun set over the Pacific.

“It was one of my first cases in the ME’s office,” Claire was saying. “And so I was ‘it.’ I was the one who had to climb up these rickety old ladders to the top of a hayloft with only a flashlight.”

Yuki coughed as the tequila went down her windpipe, gasping for breath as Cindy and I yelled at her in unison, “Sip it!”

Claire thumped Yuki’s back and continued.

“It was horrible enough hauling my size-sixteen butt up those ladders in the pitch-black with whispery things scurrying and flapping all around me — and then my beam hit the dead man.

“His feet were hovering above the hay, and when I lit him up, I swear to God he looked like he was levitating. Eyes and tongue bugged out, like a freakin’ ghoul.”

“No way.” Yuki laughed. She was wearing pajama bottoms and a Boalt Law sweatshirt, her hair in a ponytail, already drunk on her one margarita, looking more like a college kid than a woman nearing thirty.

“I yelled down into the dark well of that barn,” Claire said, “got two big old boys to come up and cut the body down from the rafters and put Mr. Levitation into a body bag.”

Claire paused for dramatic effect — and right then my cell phone rang.

Prev page Next page