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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 5

HOW I GOT from Dr. Orenthaler's office, out in Noe Valley, all the way to the Hyatt in Union Square, I don't remember.

I kept hearing the doctor's words sounding over and over in my head. In severe cases, Negli's can be fatal.

All I know is that barely twelve minutes after Jacobi's call, my ten-year-old Bronco screeched to a halt in front of the hotel's atrium entrance.

The street was ablaze with police activity. Jesus, what the hell had happened?

The entire block between Sutter and Union Square had been cordoned off by a barricade of blue-and-whites. In the hotel entrance, a cluster of uniforms crowded about, checking people going in and out, waving the crowd of onlookers away.

I badged my way into the lobby. Two uniformed cops whom I recognized were standing in front: Murray, a potbellied cop in the last year of his hitch, and his younger partner, Vasquez. I asked Murray to bring me up to speed.

"What I been told is that there's two VIPs murdered on the thirtieth floor. All the brainpower's up there now."

"Who's presiding?" I asked, feeling my energies returning.

"Right now, I guess you are, Inspector."

"In that case, I want all exits to the hotel immediately shut down. And get a list from the manager of all guests and staff. No one goes in or out unless they're on that list."

Seconds later, I was riding up to the thirtieth floor.

The trail of cops and official personnel led me down the hall to a set of open double doors marked "Mandarin Suite." I ran into Charlie Clapper, the Crime Scene Unit crew chief, lugging in his heavy cases with two techs. Clapper's being here himself meant this was big.

Through the open double doors, I saw roses first — they were everywhere. Then I spotted Jacobi.

"Watch your heels, Inspector," he called loudly across the room.

My partner was forty-seven, but he looked ten years older. His hair was white, and he was beginning to bald. His face always seemed on the verge of a smirk over some tasteless wisecrack. He and I had worked together for two and a half years. I was senior, inspector-sergeant, though he had seven years on me in the department. He reported to me.

Stepping into the suite, I almost tripped across the legs of body number one, the groom. He was lying just inside the front door, crumpled in a heap, in an open tuxedo shirt and pants. Blood matted the hair on his chest. I took a deep breath.

"May I present Mr. David Brandt," Jacobi intoned with a crooked smile. "Mrs. David Brandt's in there." He gestured toward the bedroom. "Guess things went downhill for them quicker than most."

I knelt down and took a long, hard look at the dead groom. He was handsome, with short, dark, tousled hair and a soft jaw; but the wide, apoplectic eyes locked open and the rivulet of dried blood on his chin marred the features. Behind him, his tuxedo jacket lay on the floor.

"Who found them?" I asked, checking his pocket for a wallet.

"Assistant manager. They were supposed to fly to Bali this morning. The island, not the casino, Boxer. For these two, assistant managers do wake-up calls."

I opened the wallet: a New York driver's license with the groom's smiling face. Platinum cards, several hundred-dollar bills.

I got up and looked around the suite. It opened up into a stylish museum of Oriental art: celadon dragons, chairs and couches decorated with imperial court scenes. The roses, of course. I was more the cozy bed-and-breakfast type, but if you were into making a statement, this was about as substantial a statement as you could make.

"Let's meet the bride," Jacobi said.

I followed through a set of open double doors into the master bedroom and stopped. The bride lay on her back on a large canopy bed.

I'd been to a hundred homicides and could radar in on the body as quick as anyone, but this I wasn't prepared for. It sent a wave of compassion racing down my spine.

The bride was still in her wedding dress.

Copyright © 2001 by James Patterson

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