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The Lightning Rod

The Lightning Rod By Brad Meltzer Summary

The Lightning Rod: A Zig & Nola Novel (Escape Artist, 2) Archie Mint has a secret. He’s led a charmed life—he’s got a beautiful wife, two impressive kids, and a successful military career. But when he’s killed while trying to stop a robbery in his own home, his family is shattered—and then shocked when the other shoe drops. Mint’s been hiding criminal secrets none of them could have imagined.

While working on Mint’s body before his funeral, mortician “Zig” Zigarowski discovers something he was never meant to see. That telling detail leads him to Mint’s former top-secret military unit and his connection to artist Nola Brown. Two years ago, Nola saved Zig’s life—so he knows better than most that she’s as volatile and dangerous as a bolt of lightning.

Following Nola’s trail, he uncovers one of the U.S. government’s most intensely guarded secrets—an undisclosed military facility that dates back to the Cold War and holds the key to something far more sinister: a hidden group willing to compromise the very safety and security of America itself.

About the Author

Brad Meltzer is the #1 New York Times bestselling author of twelve thrillers including The Escape Artist, and nonfiction books such as The Lincoln Conspiracy and the Ordinary People Change the World series. He is also the host of the TV show Brad Meltzer’s Decoded on the History Channel. He lives in Florida with his wife and three children.

The Lightning Rod By Brad Meltzer Introduction

Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.

Wonderly Square, Pennsylvania

Four hours. He spent four hours working on her body.

“Ziggy, let her be. She looks good.”

Good?” Jim Zigarowski asked, standing over the coffin, makeup brush in his hand. “Not great?”

“Let me rephrase. Great. Beautiful. Michelangelo would say you’re Michelangelo,” said Puerto Rican Andy. Zig never liked the name, but Andy had been calling himself that since fourth grade, when there were three Andys in his class. Today, at three hundred pounds, Puerto Rican Andy lumbered through the viewing room at Calta’s Funeral Home, carrying a metal easel with a bushel of bright daisies that he placed at the foot of the coffin. “She hasn’t looked this good since Reagan was President.”

“Don’t listen to him, ma’am,” Zig whispered, leaning down toward the dead elderly woman with high cheekbones and pale pink lipstick. Fallen #2,546. Mrs. Leslie Paoli, ninety-three years old. Dead from stomach cancer and whatever else you catch when you spend your last decade in a nursing home. “You look even more beautiful now, Mrs. Paoli.”

Zig meant it. For four hours, he’d polished her nails, cleaned her dentures, used putty and makeup to cover the bruises on her neck and arms from all the machines at the hospital, and washed and restyled her hair, which probably hadn’t been shampooed in months. He even put her in the same dress—gold sequins with a crystal butterfly pin at the shoulder—that she was wearing in the photo next to her b—

“Bossman, they’re here!” Puerto Rican Andy called out, sweat running down his shaved head, skating toward his neck tattoo—a phoenix—that poked out from the collar of his white dress shirt. Andy was big and looked like a convict, but as his parole officer had told Zig, the phoenix referred to Dumbledore, Puerto Rican Andy being the biggest Harry Potter fan in rural Pennsylvania. Ravenclaw, Andy would say to anyone who asked.

“Bossman, y’hear what I—?”

“One more sec,” Zig said, adding some final blush to Mrs. Paoli’s cheeks.

As always, the hardest part was getting the coloring just right. People think corpses are gray, but by the time they arrive at a funeral home, they’re white. “Like geishas,” Zig’s mentor used to say. Once your heart stops and your body is on its back for a few hours, gravity sets in, blanching your face, chest, and legs—that is, unless an artful mortician gives you back your color.

“I told you, ma’am, we’ll take care of you,” Zig whispered, moving a stray silver hair from her forehead and flashing that charming smile that had gotten every mah-jongg group gossiping back when he first moved to the small town of Wonderly Square. Zig’s silver-and-black hair was shorter now, for summer. Across his jaw was the hairline scar that he’d used to his advantage during those wild years after his divorce.

For most of his adult life, Zig had been a mortician at Dover Air Force Base, home of the mortuary for the U.S. government’s most high-profile and top-secret cases. On 9/11, the victims of the Pentagon attack were sent to Dover. So were the hostages who were killed in Beirut, the victims who were shot at Fort Hood, and the remains of well over fifty thousand soldiers and CIA operatives who’d fought in Vietnam, Afghanistan, Iraq, and every secret location in between. In Delaware, of all places, at Dover Air Force Base, was America’s most secretive funeral home.

Two years earlier, Zig had left it all behind. There was too much pain—too many old scars torn open from spending every day with dead young soldiers. Within a month, he’d found the job here at Calta’s Funeral Home, in a building that, back in the seventies, had been a Dairy Queen, complete with a red mansard roof that was now painted beige. Zig took it as a sign, hoping things could be a bit more nice and easy. But really, when was anything in life nice and easy?

“I’m looking for Jim Zigarowski,” a man in his late thirties called out, stepping into the viewing room, then taking a half step back once he spotted the coffin. He wore a shiny blue suit, no tie, like he was going to a beachfront wedding.

“You must be Mr. DeSanctis,” Zig said as the man took off his Mercedes baseball cap, which he’d clearly gotten from the dealership.

Is he actually wearing a Mercedes hat?” Puerto Rican Andy whispered. “Ten points from Slytherin.”

Is that—? Is she—?” DeSanctis motioned to the coffin.

“Your mother is—”

Mother-in-law. She’s— Mother-in-law,” DeSanctis insisted.

“My apologies,” Zig said, putting on his funeral home voice, which made him sound like an NPR host. “As you’ll see, we got her all cleaned up, so if you want to take a look—”

“Y’mean at the body? No. No no no.” DeSanctis laughed nervously. “We’d rather remember her how she lived, not how she died,” he explained, glancing around at the chairs, the flowers, even at the framed vintage metal sign from the funeral home’s original 1908 location. Offering Understanding, it read in antique lettering. He glanced around at everything, really, except Mrs. Paoli. “Anyway, if you wouldn’t mind . . . y’know . . . closing it . . . ?” he said, pointing with his fancy baseball cap toward the coffin.

“Of course,” Zig replied with a polite grin.

DeSanctis stood there an extra few seconds. “Gotta be a horrible way to go, right? Like I told my own kids, don’t ever put me in a nursing home. Last thing I want is to spend my final years collecting dust.”

Zig nodded, still faking a grin. But as he looked around the ancient funeral home, Zig was surprised by how much the words stung. Collecting dust. Was that all he was doing these days?

DeSanctis headed out to his family, as Zig felt a buzz in his pocket. His phone vibrating. To his surprise, the caller ID showed a familiar number.

302-677 prefix: Dover Air Force Base.

The life he’d left behind.

“Ziggy, it’s Wil! What’s cooking, good-looking?” Wil-with-one-L announced.

Enthusiasm was always Wil’s major. But Zig and Wil weren’t buddies. Or even acquaintances. In the two years since Zig left Dover, Wil had called him a grand total of zero times. Still, Zig was so surprised by the call, that he didn’t give it much thought. That was his first mistake.

“How’s private practice?” Wil asked.

“Wonderful. Couldn’t be better,” Zig said, eyeing Mrs. Paoli, frozen in her coffin.

“Listen, sorry to bother you, but we got a case that just came through—a lieutenant colonel, one of our own,” Wil explained, meaning it was someone who worked at Dover. “The point being, the funeral’s near you—just a few towns over—and we want the body treated perfectly, so . . .” He put on his best Godfather voice. “You up for letting us pull you back in?”

“Wow. Al Pacino impression. Topical. Wanna hear my Mr. T?”

“I’m serious, Ziggy. We could use the help. It’s a good case. Funeral’s tomorrow. You up for this or not?”

Zig stared at the coffin, at Mrs. Paoli and the crystal butterfly on her dress. Outside, down the hallway, DeSanctis was grabbing a handful of mints from the welcome bowl and stuffing them in his pocket.

Yeah. I’m in,” Zig said, thinking maybe this was just what he needed.

The following morning, Zig left his house at 5:00 A.M., his camouflage backpack stocked with his mortician kit: baggies, modeling clay, makeup, and all his tools, including scalpels, forceps, draining tubes, and even a sternal saw, just in case.

Running down the front steps, he felt good to be in the mix . . . to be helping a family that truly needed his expertise. Zig was a sculptor. With bullet wounds to the face, you need to be prepared for the worst. And he was.

But the one thing Zig wasn’t prepared for and didn’t see was the man with the buzzed hair and pointy face who was parked diagonally across the street.

From his own car, the man watched Zig leave his house and head down the front steps, a travel mug of coffee in his hands.

If Zig was smart or even a bit suspicious, he would’ve checked over his own shoulder. But the only ones who do that, the man thought to himself, are those who know they’re in trouble.


Zig knew that sound, the low mesmerizing hum vibrating through the building. It was coming from the school’s gym, the only place in town big enough to hold the nearly one thousand mourners who were packed into the bleachers, waiting to pay their respects.

It was the same in every small town. Fallen soldiers’ funerals were community events. Outside, fire engines lined the streets, flags hung from every storefront, and folks lined up early. From the rumble, the crowd was restless.

“You got a prep room for me?” Zig called out, moving fast like he was in an emergency room scene on one of those doctor TV shows, both hands on the metal rolling cart that held the flag-covered coffin.

Fallen #2,547. Lieutenant Colonel Archie Mint, forty-eight years old. Almost my age, Zig thought, steering the coffin down the long hallway of Elmswood High, pretending it was normal to push a coffin down the corridor of a high school.

End of the hall, make a left,” said the man who was running just ahead of the coffin.

Clifford. Like the big red dog, Zig thought, nodding thanks as he followed the thin, six-foot-four-inch, sixty-year-old man with a mediocre handshake and the build of a Q-tip. God, why’s the head of every local funeral home always look the part?

“A prep room . . . ? Is the damage really that bad?” Clifford asked.

Zig stayed silent, spotting a stray blue thread on the American flag. He reached down to grab it. Whether it was a ninety-three-year-old civilian or a forty-eight-year-old lieutenant colonel, every one of the fallen deserved the very best.

We’ll take care of you, Archie,” Zig whispered toward the coffin.

The tricky part was that in the summer heat like this, the coffin acts like an oven. Makeup on the fallen soldier begins to melt. So does the wax that’s used to smooth over bullet holes or other wounds in the victim’s face.

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The Lightning Rod

The Lightning Rod: A Zig & Nola Novel PDF

Product details:

EditionInternational Edition
ISBN0062892401, 978-0062892409
Posted onMarch 8, 2022
Page Count432 pages
AuthorBrad Meltzer

The Lightning Rod By Brad Meltzer PDF Free Download - HUB PDF

The Lightning Rod: A Zig & Nola Novel (Escape Artist, 2) Archie Mint has a secret. He’s led a charmed life—he’s got a beautiful wife, two impressive kids, and a successful military career. But when he’s killed while trying to stop a robbery in his own home, his family is shattered—and then shocked when the other shoe drops. Mint’s been hiding criminal secrets none of them could have imagined.


Author: Brad Meltzer

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