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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 4

SAN FRANCISCO MUNICIPAL HOSPITAL is huge-like a city in itself. Once a public hospital, it had been privatized a few years back, but it still took more than its share of indigents and overflow from other hospitals, treating in excess of a hundred thousand patients a year.

At that moment, Keiko Castellano was inside one of the curtained stalls that ringed the perimeter of the vast, frantic emergency room.

As I sat beside Yuki in the waiting room, I could feel her terror and fear for her mother's life.

And I flashed on the last time I'd been inside an emergency room. I remembered the doctors' ghostlike hands touching my body, the loud throbbing of my heart, and wondering if I was going to get out alive.

I'd been off duty that night but went on a stakeout anyway, not thinking that one minute it would be a routine job, and the next minute I'd be down. The same was true for my friend and former partner, Inspector Warren Jacobi. We'd both taken two slugs in that desolate alley. He was unconscious and I was bleeding out on the street when somehow I found the strength to return fire.

My aim had been good, maybe even too good.

It's a sad sign of the times that public sympathy favors civilians who've been shot by police over police who've been shot by civilians. I was sued by the family of the so-called victims and I could have lost everything.

I hardly knew Yuki then.

But Yuki Castellano was the smart, passionate, and supertalented young lawyer who had come through for me when I really needed her. I would always be grateful.

I turned to Yuki now as she spoke, her voice choppy with agitation, her face corrugated with worry.

"This makes no sense, Lindsay. You saw her. She's only fifty-five, for God's sake. She's a freaking life force. What's going on? Why don't they tell me something? Or at least let me see her?"

I had no answer, but like Yuki, I was out of patience.

Where the hell was the doctor?

This was unconscionable. Not acceptable in any way.

What was taking so long?

I was gathering myself to walk into the ER and demand some answers, when a doctor finally strode into the waiting room. He looked around, then called Yuki's name.

Copyright © 2006 by James Patterson

Read by Carolyn McCormick
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