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1st to Die

1st to Die is a dazzlingly powerful new thriller by master suspense novelist James Patterson, the #1 bestselling author of Kiss the Girls and Along Came a Spider.

Four women-four friends-share a determination to stop a killer who has been stalking newlyweds in San Francisco. Each one holds a piece of the puzzle: Lindsay Boxer is a homicide inspector in the San Francisco Police Department, Claire Washburn is a medical examiner, Jill Bernhardt is an assistant D.A., and Cindy Thomas just started working the crime desk of the San Francisco Chronicle.

But the usual procedures aren't bringing them any closer to stopping the killings. So these women form a Women's Murder Club to collaborate outside the box and pursue the case by sidestepping their bosses and giving one another a hand.

The four women develop intense bonds as they pursue a killer whose crimes have stunned an entire city. Working together, they track down the most terrifying and unexpected killer they have ever encountered-before a shocking conclusion in which everything they knew turns out to be devastatingly wrong.

Full of the breathtaking drama and unforgettable emotions for which James Patterson is famous, 1st to Die is the start of a blazingly fast-paced and sensationally entertaining new series of crime thrillers.

Chapter 4

THE COLD, BLUNT SOUND of the word hit me like a hollow-point shell between the eyes.

Fatal, Lindsay.

I waited for Dr. Roy to tell me this was all some kind of sick joke. That he had my tests mixed up with someone else's.

"I want to send you to a hematologist, Lindsay," Orenthaler went on.

"Like a lot of diseases, there are stages. Stage one is when there's a mild depletion of cells. It can be treated with monthly transfusions. Stage two is when there's a systemic shortage of red cells.

"Stage three would require hospitalization. A bone marrow transplant. Potentially, the removal of your spleen."

"So where am I?" I asked, sucking in a cramped lungful of air.

"Your erythrocytic count is barely two hundred per cc of raw blood. That puts you on the cusp."

"The cusp?"

"The cusp," the doctor said, "between stages two and three."

There comes a point in everybody's life when you realize the stakes have suddenly changed. The carefree ride of your life slams into a stone wall; all those years of merely bouncing along, life taking you where you want to go, abruptly end. In my job, I see this moment forced on people all the time.

Welcome to mine.

"So what does this mean?" I asked weakly. The room was spinning a little now.

"What it means, Lindsay, is that you're going to have to undergo a prolonged regimen of intensive treatment."

I shook my head. "What does it mean for my job?"

I'd been in Homicide for six years now, the past two as lead homicide inspector. With any luck, when my lieutenant was up for promotion, I'd be in line for his job. The department needed strong women. They could go far. Until that moment, I had thought that I would go far.

"Right now," the doctor said, "I don't think it means anything. As long as you feel strong while you're undergoing treatment, you can continue to work. In fact, it might even be good therapy."

Suddenly, I felt as if the walls of the room were closing in on me and I was suffocating.

"I'll give you the name of the hematologist," Orenthaler said.

He went on about the doctor's credentials, but I found myself no longer hearing him. I was thinking, Who am I going to tell? Mom had died ten years before, from breast cancer. Dad had been out of the picture since I was thirteen. I had a sister, Cat, but she was living a nice, neat life down in Newport Beach, and for her, just making a right turn on red brought on a moment of crisis.

The doctor pushed the referral toward me. "I know you, Lindsay. You'll pretend this is something you can fix by working harder. But you can't. This is deadly serious. I want you to call him today."

Suddenly my beeper sounded. I fumbled for it in my bag and looked at the number. It was the office — Jacobi.

"I need a phone," I said.

Orenthaler shot me a reproving look, one that read, I told you, Lindsay.

"Like you said," — I forced a nervous smile — "therapy." He nodded to the phone on his desk and left the room. I went through the motions of dialing my partner.

"Fun's over, Boxer," Jacobi's gruff voice came on the line. "We got a double one-eight-oh. The Grand Hyatt."

My head was spinning with what the doctor had told me. In a fog, I must not have responded.

"You hear me, Boxer? Work time. You on the way?"

"Yeah," I finally said.

"And wear something nice," my partner grunted. "Like you would to a wedding."

Copyright © 2001 by James Patterson

Read by Suzanne Toren (unabridged) & Melissa Leo and Dylan Baker (abridged)
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