IT WAS A CLEAR, calm, lazy April morning, the day the worst week of
my life began.
I was jogging down by the bay with my border collie, Martha. It's
my thing Sunday mornings - get up early and cram my meaningful
other into the front seat of the Explorer. I try to huff out three
miles, from Fort Mason down to the bridge and back. Just enough to
convince myself I'm bordering on something called in shape at
That morning, my buddy Jill came along. To give her baby Lab, Otis,
a run, or so she claimed. More likely, to warm herself up for a
bike sprint up Mount Tamalpais or whatever Jill would do for real
exercise later in the day.
It was hard to believe that it had been only five months since Jill
lost her baby. Now here she was, her body toned and lean
"So, how did it go last night?" she asked, shuffling sideways
beside me. "Word on the street is, Lindsay had a date." "You could
call it a date. . . ," I said, focusing on the heights of Fort
Mason, which weren't getting closer fast enough for me. "You could
call Baghdad a vacation spot, too." She winced. "Sorry I brought it
All run long, my head had been filled with the annoying
recollection of Franklin Fratelli, "asset remarketing" mogul (which
was a fancy way of saying he sent goons after the dot-com busts who
could no longer make the payments on their Beemers and Franck
Mullers). For two months Fratelli had stuck his face in my office
every time he was in the Hall, until he wore me down enough to ask
him up for a meal on Saturday night (the short ribs braised in port
wine I had to pack back into the fridge after he bailed on me at
the last minute).
"I got stood up," I said, mid-stride. "Don't ask, I won't tell the
We pulled up at the end of Marina Green, a lung-clearing bray from
me while Mary Decker over there bobbed on her toes as if she could
go another loop.
"I don't know how you do it," I said, hands on hips, trying to
catch my breath.
"My grandmother," she said, shrugging and stretching out a
hamstring. "She started walking five miles a day when she was
sixty. She's ninety now. We have no idea where she is."
We both started to laugh. It was good to see the old Jill trying to
peek through. It was good to hear the laughter back in her
"You up for a mochachino?" I asked. "Martha's buying." "Can't.
Steve's flying in from Chicago. He wants to bike up to see the Dean
Friedlich exhibit at the Legion of Honor as soon as he can get in
and change. You know what the puppy's like when he doesn't get his
I frowned. "Somehow it's hard for me to think of Steve as a
Jill nodded and pulled off her sweatshirt, lifting her arms.
"Jill," I gasped, "what the hell is that?"
Peeking out through the strap of her exercise bra were a couple of
small, dark bruises, like finger marks.
She tossed her sweatshirt over her shoulder, seemingly caught off
guard. "Mashed myself getting out of the shower," she said. "You
should get a load of how it looks." She winked. I nodded, but
something about the bruise didn't sit well with me. "You sure you
don't want that coffee?" I asked.
"Sorry ...You know El Exigente, if I'm five minutes late, he starts
to see it as a pattern." She whistled for Otis and began to jog
back to her car. She waved. "See you at work."
"So how about you?" I knelt down to Martha. "You look like a
mochachino would do the trick." I snapped on her leash and started
to trot off toward the Starbucks on Chestnut. The Marina has always
been one of my favorite neighborhoods.
Curling streets of colorful, restored town houses. Families, the
sound of gulls, the sea air off the bay.
I crossed Alhambra, my eye drifting to a beautiful three-story town
house I always passed and admired. Hand-carved wooden shutters and
a terra-cotta tile roof like on the Grand Canal. I held Martha as a
car passed by.
That's what I remembered about the moment. The neighborhood just
waking up. A redheaded kid in a FUBU sweatshirt practicing tricks
on his Razor. A woman in overalls hurrying around the corner,
carrying a bundle of clothes.
"C'mon, Martha." I tugged on her leash. "I can taste that
Then the town house with the terra-cotta roof exploded into flames.
I mean, it was as if San Francisco were suddenly
Excerpted from 3RD DEGREE © Copyright 2004 by James
Patterson and Andrew Gross. Reprinted with permission by Warner
Books, an imprint of Time Warner Bookmark. All rights