Date: July 17
Place: San Francisco
Observation point: Residence adjacent to Jo’s. On the balcony, behind the statue of Cupid.

6:15 a.m. – Foghorn blares. Jo’s shutters open. Kitchen lights turn on. Coffee pot turns on.

6:32 a.m. – First pot of coffee is gone. She drank it like a vampire draining a juicy neck.

6:45 a.m. – Jo’s Toyota Tacoma pickup pulls away from Russian Hill. She’s dressed in T-shirt and running tights, carrying a gym bag. Looks like she’s going to Mission Cliffs climbing gym. It’s chilly. She should have worn a sweater.

7:03 a.m. – Confirmation from the remote control device placed in the bed of Jo’s pickup: Mission Cliffs. She spends 45 minutes at the climbing gym.

8:24 a.m. – She stops at Gabe Quintana’s house in Noe Valley. On the porch, waves goodbye to Gabe’s daughter Sophie as Sophie runs to catch the school bus. Kisses Gabe goodbye as he heads to Moffett Field for duty with the 129th Rescue Wing.

9 a.m. – at University of California San Francisco Medical School to present guest lecture on forensic psychiatry.

10 a.m. – Facilitates meeting of bereavement group at UCSF Medical Center.

11 a.m. – Interviews witnesses for a case she is working on.

12 p.m. – Meeting at Hall of Justice with Lt. Amy Tang, Homicide Detail, SFPD. Meeting moves to deli across the street, between the bail bondsman and the Jiffy Lube. Jo has a spinach and red pepper bagel with cream cheese. A healthy choice. And more coffee.

1:30 p.m. – Testifies in San Francisco Superior Court, as expert witness in murder trial. (Names redacted for security.) As a consultant for the San Francisco Police Department, Jo performed a psychological autopsy on the victim. Her investigation uncovered evidence that the victim did not die in accident but was in fact murdered. Jo is a genius. And a good citizen.

4 p.m. – Meets with the Medical Examiner.

5:15 p.m. – Picks up Sophie Quintana from St. Ignatius School in Noe Valley.

5:30 p.m. – Starbucks. Jo has had so much coffee that she’s glowing like Plutonium.

5:53 p.m. – Macy’s, Union Square. And a problem. I have been receiving data on Jo’s whereabouts via a camera embedded in my remote controlled robot, Ahnuld. However, Mr. Peebles has managed to elude me and climb aboard Ahnuld. Alas, shoppers seem unprepared for the sight of a Capuchin monkey riding a robot around a department store. From knee-level, the panic and fleeing and screams look surprisingly out of control.

6:10 p.m. – Amy Tang is on scene. She is looking directly into the camera. Oh, dear. Now she’s calling Jo. Gulp. Dr. Beckett looks fiercely at Ahnuld with her hands propped on her hips. Sophie Quintana thinks it’s funny but not the woman at the makeup counter with the stripes of hot pink Dior lipstick slashed across her calves. Mr. P, Mr. P… Now Lt. Tang is guiding Jo away from the fray. I get on the phone and alert everybody that she has left the scene. Time for them to get in position. This is a precision operation and timing is crucial.

7 p.m. – Gabe is waiting at Java Jones, near Fisherman’s Wharf. He sees me and gives a thumbs up.

7:15 p.m. – Jo comes in. Her sister Tina and brother Rafe, her parents, Tang, Gabe, Sophie, the Medical Examiner, the parents of her late husband, Daniel, plus neighbors and several SFPD detectives, jump up and shout, “Happy Birthday!”

7:20 p.m. – Mr. Peebles is smoking one of the birthday candles like a cigar. Jo removes it from his mouth. She gives me a peck on the cheek. My work here is complete.

Submitted by
Ferd Bismuth
You can read more about Jo Becket in THE NIGHTMARE THIEF, the fourth book in the “Jo Beckett” mystery series. The first book in the series is THE DIRTY SECRETS CLUB.

Meg Gardiner is the Edgar Award-winning author of the Jo Beckett and the Evan Delaney novels. She is an escaped lawyer, three-time Jeopardy champion, and rehabilitated mime. Her latest novel is The Nightmare Thief. Visit Meg at

Books are available at retail and online booksellers.

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