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The 5th Horseman

A young mother is recuperating in a San Francisco hospital when she is suddenly gasping for breath. The call button fails to bring help in time. The hospital's doctors, some of the best in the nation, are completely mystified by her death. How did this happen?

This is not the first such case at the hospital. Just as patients are about to be released with a clean bill of health, their conditions take a devastating turn for the worse.

Accompanied by the newest member of the Women's Murder Club, Yuki Castellano, Lieutenant Lindsay Boxer probes deeper into the incidents. Could these cases just be appalling coincidences? Or is a maniac playing God with people's lives? When someone close to the Women's Murder Club begins to exhibit the same frightening symptoms, Lindsay fears no one is safe.

It is a wild race against time as Lindsay's investigation reveals a hospital administration determined to shield its reputation at all costs. And while the hospital wages an explosive court battle that grips the entire nation, Lindsay and the Women's Murder Club hunt for a merciless killer among its esteemed medical staff.

Chapter 7

A CAB WAS IDLING in front of the hospital. Lucky me. I slid in and slumped into the backseat, feeling like total crap, only much worse. Pulling all-nighters is for college kids, not big girls like me.

The driver was mercifully silent as we made our way across town to Potrero Hill at dawn.

A few minutes later, I slipped my key into the front door of the pretty, blue three-story Victorian town house I share with two other tenants, and climbed the groaning staircase to the second floor, two steps at a time.

Sweet Martha, my border collie, greeted me at the door as if I'd been gone for a year. I knew her sitter had fed and walked her-Karen's bill was on the kitchen table-but Martha had missed me and I'd missed her, too.

"Yuki's mom is in the hospital," I told my doggy. Corny me. I wrapped my arms around her, and she gave me sloppy kisses, then followed me back to my bedroom.

I wanted to fall into the downy folds of bedding for seven or eight hours, but instead I changed into a wrinkled Santa Clara U tracksuit and took Her Sweetness for a run as the glowing morning fog hovered over the bay.

At eight on the nose I was at my desk looking through the glass walls of my cubicle out at the squad room as the morning tour sauntered in.

The stack of files on my desk had grown since I'd seen it last, and the message light on my phone was blinking in angry red bursts. I was about to address these irritations, when a shadow fell across my desk and my unopened container of coffee.

A large, balding man stood in my doorway. I knew his pug-ugly face almost as well as I knew my own.

My former partner wore the time-rumpled look of a career police officer who had rounded the corner on fifty. Inspector Warren Jacobi's hair was turning white, and his deep, hooded eyes were harder than they'd been before he'd taken those slugs on Larkin Street.

"You look like you slept on a park bench last night, Boxer."

"Thanks, dear."

"I hope you had fun."

"Tons. What's up, Jacobi?"

"A DOA was called in twenty minutes ago," he said. "A female, formerly very attractive, I'm told. Found dead inside a Cadillac in the Opera Plaza Garage."

Copyright © 2006 by James Patterson

Read by Carolyn McCormick
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