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.
IT WAS A LITTLE BEFORE EIGHT-THIRTY on a Monday morning in June, one of those chilly, gray summer mornings San Francisco is famous for. I was starting the week off badly, flipping through old copies of The New Yorker while waiting for my G.P., Dr. Roy Orenthaler, to free up.
I'd been seeing Dr. Roy, as I still sometimes called him, ever since I was a sociology major at San Francisco University, and I obligingly came in once a year for my checkup. That was last Tuesday. To my surprise, he had called at the end of the week and asked me to stop in today before work.
I had a busy day ahead of me: two open cases and a deposition to deliver at district court. I was hoping I could be at my desk by nine.
"Ms. Boxer," the receptionist finally called to me, "the doctor will see you now."
I followed her into the doctor's office.
Generally, Orenthaler greeted me with some well-intended stab at police humor, such as, "So if you're here, who's out on the street after them?" I was now thirty-four, and for the past two years had been lead inspector on the homicide detail out of the Hall of Justice.
But today he rose stiffly and uttered a solemn "Lindsay." He motioned me to the chair across from his desk. Uh-oh.
Up until then, my philosophy on doctors had been simple: When one of them gave you that deep, concerned look and told you to take a seat, three things could happen. Only one of them was bad. They were asking you out, getting ready to lay on some bad news, or they'd just spent a fortune reupholstering the furniture.
"I want to show you something," Orenthaler began. He held a slide up against a light.
He pointed to splotches of tiny ghostlike spheres in a current of smaller pellets. "This is a blowup of the blood smear we took from you. The larger globules are erythrocytes. Red blood cells."
"They seem happy," I joked nervously.
"They are, Lindsay," the doctor said without a trace of a smile.
"Problem is, you don't have many."I fixed on his eyes, hoping they would relax and that we'd move on to something trivial like, You better start cutting down those long hours, Lindsay.
"There's a condition, Lindsay," Orenthaler went on. "Negli's aplastic anemia. It's rare. Basically, the body no longer manufactures red blood cells." He held up a photo. "This is what a normal blood workup looks like."
On this one, the dark background looked like the inter-section of Market and Powell at 5:00 P.M., a virtual traffic jam of compressed, energetic spheres. Speedy messengers, all carrying oxygen to parts of someone else's body.
In contrast, mine looked about as densely packed as a political headquarters two hours after the candidate has conceded.
"This is treatable, right?" I asked him. More like I was telling him.
"It's treatable, Lindsay," Orenthaler said, after a pause. "But it's serious."
A week ago, I had come in simply because my eyes were runny and blotchy and I'd discovered some blood in my panties and every day by three I was suddenly feeling like some iron-deficient gnome was inside me siphoning off my energy. Me, of the regular double shifts and fourteen-hour days. Six weeks' accrued vacation.
"How serious are we talking about?" I asked, my voice catching.
"Red blood cells are vital to the body's process of oxygenation," Orenthaler began to explain. "Hemopoiesis, the formation of blood cells in the bone marrow."
"Dr. Roy, this isn't a medical conference. How serious are we talking about?"
"What is it you want to hear, Lindsay? Diagnosis or possibility?"
"I want to hear the truth."
Orenthaler nodded. He got up and came around the desk and took my hand. "Then here's the truth, Lindsay. What you have is life threatening."
"Life threatening?" My heart stopped. My throat was as dry as parchment.
Copyright © 2001 by James Patterson
Read by Suzanne Toren (unabridged) & Melissa Leo and Dylan Baker (abridged)
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