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The 5th Horseman

SOMEBODY DIES.
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?

APOCALYPSE NEARS.
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.

THE 5TH HORSEMAN RIDES.
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 3

I WAS AT MY DESK sifting through a mound of case files, eighteen open homicides to be exact, when Yuki Castellano, attorney-at-law, called on my private line.

"My mom wants to take us to lunch at the Armani Caf," said the newest member of the Women's Murder Club. "You've gotta meet her, Lindsay. She can charm the skin off a snake, and I mean that in the nicest possible way."

Let me see; what should I choose? Cold coffee and tuna salad in my office? Or a tasty Mediterranean luncheon, say, carpaccio over arugula with thin shavings of Parmesan and a glass of Merlot, with Yuki and her snake-charming mom?

I neatened the stack of folders, told our squad assistant, Brenda, that I'd be back in a couple of hours, and left the Hall of Justice with no need to be back until the staff meeting at 3:00.

The bright September day had broken a rainy streak in the weather and was one of the last glory days before the dank autumn chill would close in on San Francisco.

It was a joy to be outside.

I met Yuki and her mother, Keiko, in front of Saks in the upscale Union Square shopping district out by the Golden Gate Panhandle. Soon we were chattering away as the three of us headed up Maiden Lane toward Grant Avenue.

"You girls, too modern," Keiko said. She was as cute as a bird, tiny, perfectly dressed and coiffed, shopping bags dangling from the crooks of her arms. "No man want woman who too independent," she told us.

"Mommm," Yuki wailed. "Give it a rest, willya? This is the twenty-first century. This is America."

"Look at you, Lindsay," Keiko said, ignoring Yuki, poking me under the arm. "You're packing!"

Yuki and I both whooped, our shouts of laughter nearly drowning out Keiko's protestation that "no man want a woman with a gun."

I wiped my eyes with the back of my hand as we stopped and waited for the light to change.

"I do have a boyfriend," I said.

"Doesn't she though," Yuki said, nearly bursting into a song about my beau. "Joe is a very handsome Italian guy. Like Dad. And he's got a big-deal government job. Homeland Security."

"He make you laugh?" Keiko asked, pointedly ignoring Joe's credentials.

"Uh-huh. Sometimes we laugh ourselves into fits."

"He treat you nice?"

"He treats me sooooo nice," I said with a grin.

Keiko nodded approvingly. "I know that smile," she said. "You find a man with a slow hands."

Again Yuki and I burst into hoots of laughter, and from the sparkle in Keiko's eyes, I could tell that she was enjoying her role as Mama Interrogator.

"When you get a ring from this Joe?"

That's when I blushed. Keiko had nailed it with a well-manicured finger. Joe lived in Washington, DC. I didn't. Couldn't. I didn't know where our relationship was going.

"We're not at the ring stage yet," I told her.

"You love this Joe?"

"Big-time," I confessed.

"He love you?"

Yuki's mom was looking up at me with amusement, when her features froze as if she'd turned to stone. Her lively eyes glazed over, rolled back, and her knees gave way.

I reached out to grab her, but I was too late.

Keiko dropped to the pavement with a moan that made my heart buck. I couldn't believe what had happened, and I couldn't understand it. Had Keiko suffered a stroke?

Yuki screamed, then crouched beside her mother, slapping her cheeks, crying out, "Mommy, Mommy, wake up."

"Yuki, let me in there for a second. Keiko. Keiko, can you hear me?"

My heart was thudding hard as I placed my fingers to Keiko's carotid artery, tracked her pulse against the second hand of my watch.

She was breathing, but her pulse was so weak, I could barely feel it.

I grabbed the Nextel at my waist and called Dispatch.

"Lieutenant Boxer, badge number twenty-seven twenty-one," I barked into the phone. "Get an EMS unit to Maiden Lane and Grant. Make it now!"

Copyright © 2006 by James Patterson

Read by Carolyn McCormick
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