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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 2

PHILLIP CAMPBELL had imagined this moment, this exquisite scene, so many times. He knew it would be the groom who opened the door. He stepped into the room.

"Congratulations," Campbell muttered, handing over the champagne. He stared at the man in the open tuxedo shirt with a black tie dangling around his neck.

David Brandt barely looked at him as he inspected the brightly ribboned box. Krug. Clos du Mesnil, 1989.

"What is the worst thing anyone has ever done?" Campbell murmured to himself. "Am I capable of doing it? Do I have what it takes?"

"Any card?" the groom said, fumbling in his pants pocket for a tip.

"Only this, sir."

Campbell stepped forward and plunged a knife deep into the groom's chest, between the third and fourth ribs, the closest route to the heart.

"For the man who has everything," Campbell said. He pushed his way into the room and slammed the door shut with a swift kick. He spun David Brandt around, shoved his back against the door, and powered the blade in deeper.

The groom stiffened in a spasm of shock and pain. Guttural sounds escaped from his chest — tiny, gurgling, choking breaths. His eyes bulged in disbelief.

This is amazing, Campbell thought. He could actually feel the groom's strength leaking away. The man had just experienced one of the great moments of his life and now, minutes later, he was dying.

Campbell stepped back, and the groom's body crumpled to the floor. The room began to tilt like a listing boat. Then everything began to speed up and run together. He felt as if he were watching a flickering newsreel. Amazing. Nothing like he had expected.

Campbell heard the wife's voice and had the presence of mind to pull the blade out of David Brandt's chest.

He rushed to intercept her as she came from the bedroom, still in her long, lacy gown.

"David?" she said with an expectant smile that turned to shock at the sight of Campbell. "Where's David? Who are you?"

Her eyes traveled over him, terror ridden, fixing on his face, the knife blade, then her husband's body on the floor.

"Oh, my God! David!" she screamed. "Oh, David, David!"

Campbell wanted to remember her like this. The frozen, wide-eyed look. The promise and hope that just moments ago had shined so brightly were now shattered.

The words poured from his mouth. "You want to know why? Well so do I."

"What have you done?" Melanie screamed again. She struggled to understand. Her terrified eyes darted back and forth, sweeping the room for a way out.

She made a sudden dash for the living room door. Campbell grabbed her wrist and brought the bloody knife up to her throat.

"Please," she whimpered, her eyes frozen. "Please don't kill me."

"The truth is, Melanie, I'm here to save you," he said as he smiled into her quivering face.

Campbell lowered the blade and sliced into her. The slender body jolted up with a sudden cry. Her eyes flickered like a weak electric bulb. A deathly rattle shot through her. Why? her begging eyes pleaded. Why?

It took a full minute for him to regain his breath. The smell of Melanie Brandt's blood was deep in his nostrils. He almost couldn't believe what he had done.

He carried the bride's body back into the bedroom and placed her on the bed.

She was beautiful. Delicate features. And so young. He remembered when he had first seen her and how he had been taken with her then. She had thought the whole world was in front of her.

He rubbed his hand against the smooth surface of her cheek and cupped one of her earrings — a smiling moon.

What is the worst thing anyone has ever done? Phillip Campbell asked himself again, heart pounding in his chest. Was this it? Had he just done it?

Not yet, a voice inside answered. Not quite yet.

Slowly, he lifted the bride's beautiful white wedding dress.

Copyright © 2001 by James Patterson

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