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  • Published: 1 December 2020
  • ISBN: 9781529135466
  • Imprint: Century
  • Format: Trade Paperback
  • Pages: 368
  • RRP: $37.00

NYPD Red 6

A missing bride. A bloodied dress. NYPD Red's deadliest case yet

Extract

PROLOGUE

THE WEDDING OF THE CENTURY

 

ONE

IT TOOK BOBBY a week to decide where to park. It had to be close to the wedding, but not too close. And since he could be sitting in a stolen truck for two, even three hours, it had to be a stretch of real estate where the cops almost never patrolled.

It was a critical decision. Son of Sam had gotten tripped up by a thirty-five-dollar parking ticket.

Learn from the mistakes of others, his father used to tell him. You can’t live long enough to make them all yourself.

He finally decided on West Twenty-Ninth Street between Eleventh and Twelfth Avenues. The entire block was lined with city sanitation trucks waiting for the next morning’s run. The stench alone was enough to keep the street clear, but on the off chance that NYPD did drive by and ask what he was doing there, he’d explain that his alternator had crapped out, and he was waiting for a tow.

He arrived at 16:45. Two-plus hours later, not a single cop had passed by. He killed time reading the papers.

The Times didn’t give the wedding much ink, just one piece on page 14 of the Sunday Styles section. But the Daily News and the Post understood that Erin was American royalty, and they gave her the kind of coverage she deserved. Front page, dozens of pictures, plus detailed diagrams of the Manhattan Center.

Of course, Bobby already had all that information. He’d made three recon runs to the venue in the past three weeks. The first time was strictly to get the lay of the land—two recording studios, a dozen offices, and two spectacular ballrooms, the Hammerstein and the Grand.

The second time, he spent the day working with a catering crew and managed to get what he came for—a master key to almost every lock in the building.

Two days ago he’d set up the live feed. Wearing a baseball cap and a shirt with a logo that said BD RENTALS, he entered the complex through the loading dock and headed upstairs. The Hammerstein was packed with the army of people it would take to get the twelve-thousand-square-foot space perfect for what the network had billed as “the Wedding of the Century.” But the Grand was dark, and he made his way to a storage room under the massive stage. At 0100 hours, with the cleaning crew long gone and a lone watchman stationed in the lobby, he’d installed the four wireless pinhole cameras.

The rest of the world wouldn’t get to see the wedding footage until ZTV fed it to them one episode at a time, but Bobby now had a live view on his iPad.

The ceremony, which had been scheduled for 1700 hours, did not come off as planned. Which, of course, was part of Erin’s plan. She loved to keep the world waiting. And guessing.

By 17:05 the Twitterverse was crackling with rumors, speculation, and general fan mania. She got cold feet. She caught Jamie cheating. She’s holding up the network for more money.

And then, at 17:43, a wedding guest posted the tweet Erin’s fans were waiting for: Here comes the bride. #TheWeddingIsOn.

The ceremony itself was stomach-turning. Bobby wanted to pummel whoever wrote Erin’s vows. Lifetime of growing. Falling more in love with you every day. Pure garbage. But he had to admit her last one was kind of funny. I vow never to keep score—even if I am totally winning. That was the Erin he loved.

It was now 18:55, and the reception was in full swing. He changed the configuration on the iPad so he could fill the screen with the single image from the ballroom camera. The resolution was excellent, and he watched her dancing with her new husband.

Jamie Gibbs was thirty-two, five years younger than Erin. He had a reputation for being something of a player, but Bobby wasn’t impressed. How hard is it to be seen with a beautiful woman on your arm when your mother owns one of the top modeling agencies on the planet? Erin Easton, on the other hand, was completely out of Jamie’s league.

“Dude,” Bobby said to the smiling image of Gibbs moving around the iPad screen. “You’re the heir to a gold mine. Did you think she married you because you’re so great in the sack?”

When the dance was over, Jamie and Erin took the stage and made their surprise announcement: Erin was going to change, and then she was coming back to put on a show.

Bobby had watched the dress rehearsal on his iPad last night. Erin didn’t have the world’s greatest voice, but the network had hired a twelve-piece band, three backup singers, and four dancers. Besides, she was beautiful to watch. All in all, it was a pretty good show. Too bad nobody would ever get to see it.

The crowd applauded, and Jamie stood there looking like he’d died and gone to heaven as Erin walked off the stage to a standing ovation.

“Go time,” Bobby said, tossing the iPad onto the passenger seat.

He reached inside his shirt and pulled out the .357 Magnum bullet that was hanging on a chain around his neck. The powder had been replaced by one cubic inch of his father’s ashes.

He rubbed his finger gently over the words the old man had had etched into the steel casing: Succeed, or die trying. Semper Fi.

Yeah, he thought as he started the truck and tucked the bullet back inside his shirt. That was the plan.

 

TWO

STANDING IN FRONT of the door to Erin Easton’s dressing room, Lenny Ringel felt like one of those guards with the red jackets and the big black furry hats crammed into the sentry box outside Buckingham Palace. Nothing to do, no one to talk to.

It was the ass end of the security detail for the wedding, and Ringel had asked McMaster flat out why he had to protect an empty room for five hours while the other four guards were working the ballroom, listening to the music, ogling the women, and sneaking off to the kitchen to stuff their faces.

“The room’s not empty,” McMaster informed him. “It’s got Erin’s wardrobe, her jewelry, and her personal belongings, which, trust me, people would be happy to steal. It has to be secured at all times.”

“So why can’t we whack it up between us?” Ringel said. “Five guys, we could each take an hour instead of me parked out here like—”

“Ringel,” McMaster said, “the place is crawling with important people, and you don’t have what I’d call important-people skills. If you don’t want the job, just say so, and I’ll book another rent-a-cop.”

Of course Ringel wanted the job. And not just for the money. When he first told his girlfriend he was working security at the Wedding of the Century, she went batshit, she was so happy.

“Lenny,” she said, “you gotta mingle like crazy and come back with as much juicy gossip as you can.”

He had to explain that his job was to protect the guests, not stalk them, but at least he’d come back with some cool stories she could tell her friends, and if she wanted to make them sound even cooler, that was fine by him. But now all he could tell her was that McMaster had put him in charge of watching a giant closet full of clothes.

And then, halfway through the gig, Erin showed up, knockers practically popping out of her wedding gown. She gave Ringel a drop-dead-gorgeous smile and said, “Wardrobe change, sweetie. Got a show to do. Don’t let anyone in.”

He couldn’t believe it. Nobody told him about any wardrobe change. “Don’t worry, Miss Easton,” he said. “Nobody gets past me. Just one thing—my girlfriend, Darcy, is a big fan. She’d kill me if I didn’t tell you. I’m Lenny, by the way.”

 “Well, Lenny, you tell Darcy—hell, don’t tell her anything,” Erin said. “Let’s blow her mind. Where’s your camera?”

Five seconds later, Lenny Ringel, the man with no important-people skills, was taking selfies with the most important person at the whole damn wedding. Suck on that, McMaster.

“Remember, Lenny,” Erin said after he’d clicked off a burst of shots with his cell phone, “don’t let anyone in, especially that pain in the ass Brockway, the guy with the camera crew. A girl needs her privacy.”

She slipped into the dressing room, snapped the lock, and left Ringel to dream what it would be like to be on the other side of the door watching Erin Easton change out of her wedding gown.

Forty minutes later Ringel was still reveling in the fact that one of the biggest stars in the world had called him by name. How cool was that?

And then the pain in the ass with the camera crew showed up.

“I’m sorry, sir,” Ringel said, every inch the professional. “Miss Easton said no visitors.”

“I’m not a visitor,” Brockway said. “I’m the guy whose network put up a million dollars to shoot this fiasco, which means I’m paying your salary and hers. She’s got a show to put on, and she’s late.”

Brockway rapped hard on the dressing-room door. “Come on, Erin. Your public is waiting. Time for you to knock ’em dead.”

No answer.

He turned to Ringel. “You sure she’s in there?”

“Positive, sir, but she said she needed her privacy.”

“I’m not paying her to stay private,” Brockway said, grabbing the doorknob and rattling it.

“It’s locked, sir,” Ringel said.

“Not for long,” he said, storming off.

Thirty seconds later he was back, this time with McMaster and two of the other guards.

“Ringel, what’s going on?” McMaster said. Only it didn’t sound like he was asking. It was more like he was blaming Lenny for the fact that Erin apparently didn’t want to come out. McMaster banged on the door. “Erin, it’s Declan. Are you okay?”

No answer. Within seconds he produced a key, unlocked the door, and swung it open.

“Sweet Jesus,” Ringel said. “What the hell happened?”

McMaster didn’t know, but after thirty-five years with the NYPD, he knew enough to block the doorway to keep Ringel from charging in and contaminating what was clearly a crime scene.

The chair in front of Erin’s dressing table was overturned. A wineglass lay unbroken on the carpet, its contents spilled. On the floor next to it was Erin’s wedding gown, the beaded bodice stained a dark red. The wine was white.

McMaster’s eyes went to the far end of the dressing room. The clothing racks that had been flush to the rear wall had been pushed aside, revealing a back door. It was closed, but he’d be willing to bet a year’s salary that it was no longer locked.

“Stay where you are,” he ordered Ringel. Taking the silk square from his breast pocket, he crossed the room; he put the fabric on the doorknob, opened the door, and peered down the hallway that led to the loading dock. “She’s gone,” he said, storming back. “Lock this place down. I don’t care how important these people are. Nobody gets out.”

“What about the cops?” Ringel said. “Should we call them?”

“Right behind you,” a voice said.

McMaster looked up. The speaker was blond with sparkling green eyes, decked out in a blue cocktail dress and flashing a gold shield. He recognized her even before she identified herself.

“Detective Kylie MacDonald,” she said. “NYPD Red.”


NYPD Red 6 James Patterson

In the sixth book in James Patterson's NYPD Red series, the wedding of the century invites the most brazen kidnapper in New York City to make the bride disappear.

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