Authors: Michael Palmer
A young doctor’s prescription for prenatal vitamins is the only factor linking three emergencies in childbirth, two of them fatal. As Dr. Sarah Baldwin races to clear her name and find the real cause of death, it becomes horrifyingly clear that someone will do anything—even murder—to hide the devastating secret
“Reinvents the medical thriller.”
“Timely … entertaining. A page-turner.”
Eight-year-old Toby Nelms is losing his will to live. Months after surgery, Toby wakes up screaming, reliving every moment of his operation—all the trauma, all the pain. Dr. Zack Iverson is determined to find out why—because the next victim may be wheeling into surgery right now
“The most gripping medical thriller I’ve read in many years.”
Talented and ambitious, Dr. Eric Najarian has been chosen to join a clandestine elite of medical professionals who think he has what it takes—if he will play by their rules. Should he refuse to take part in their sinister plan, he will be their next victim
“Spellbinding … a chillingly sinister novel made all the more frightening by [Palmer’s] medical authority.”
The Denver Post
“Packs a substantial wallop.”
“Fast-paced … a bedrock of authentic medical detail.”
Dr. Kate Bennett has it all: A loving husband, a great hospital to work in, a rosy future. Then her best friend falls ill, victim to an unknown disease that has already killed two women. Racing desperately to save her friend, Kate uncovers a terrifying medical secret that threatens her sanity and even her life—and whose roots lie in one of the greatest evils in the history of humankind
“Has everything—A terrifying plot … breakneck pace … vividly drawn characters.”
Inside Boston Doctors Hospital, patients are dying; surviving surgery only to perish inexplicably, horribly, in the dark, hollow silence of the night. A tough, bright doctor and a dedicated nurse will risk their careers—and their very lives—to unmask the terrifying mystery that no one is safe from
“Terrific … A compelling suspense tale.”
“A suspenseful page-turner … jolts and entertains the reader.”
Mary Higgins Clark
Michael Palmer has been a practicing physician for more than twenty years, most recently as an emergency room doctor and a specialist in the treatment of alcoholism and chemical dependency.
And coming soon in hardcover
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents are either the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, or locales is entirely coincidental.
A Bantam Book
All rights reserved
Copyright © 1995 by Michael Palmer
Library of Congress Catalog Card Number: 94-42807
No part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted in any form
or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including
photocopying, recording, or by any information storage and
retrieval system, without permission in writing from the publisher.
For information address: Bantam Books
Published simultaneously in the United States and Canada
Bantam Books are published by Bantam Books, a division of Random House, Inc. Its trademark, consisting of the words “Bantam Books” and the portrayal of a rooster, is Registered in U.S. Patent and Trademark Office and in other countries. Marca Registrada. Bantam Books, 1540 Broadway, New York, New York 10036
For a decade of sharing her patience, understanding,
friendship, gentle humor, wisdom, prodding, and faith with
me, this book is dedicated to
My deepest thanks to Susan Palmer Terry, Donna Prince, David Becher, Shana Sonnenburg, and especially Paul Weiss for their contributions to this novel.
And my special appreciation to Stuart Applebaum, Bantam Vice President, Publicity and Public Relations, for his encouragement, insights, energy, and dedication to books.
“The Doctor will see you now.”
The moment Ray Santana heard Orsino say the words, he knew he was going to die, and die horribly.
Ten hours or so had passed since his adhesive tape blindfold had been ripped away. Ten hours of being gagged and lashed to a high-backed chair—his head and chin taped so tightly, so expertly, that he could not move at all. Ten hours of listening to the mariachi bands and singers in the street above and knowing that for all the good they would do him, the revelers might as well be celebrating their Fiesta de Nogales on Mars. Ten hours without seeing any movement except the comings and goings of a huge roach.
The roach was an inch and a half long. Maybe two. It padded out of a crack in the mildewed basement wall and made its way, in no particular hurry, to the floor. Ray followed the insect with his eyes until it left his field of vision, and waited for its return. For a time, he wondered about roaches—how they had sex, whether they chose one mate for life. For a time, he pictured his own family—Eliza singing as she whipped together her incredible paella … Ray Jr. diving headfirst into third. For a time he thought about his life before Eliza—the Road Warriors, the drugs … his decision to leave the gang and try college … the irony of his ending up as an undercover agent for the DEA.
Now, after ten meticulously careful years on the job, he was about to meet The Doctor. And soon—very soon, he suspected—he would be dead.
For no reason that he could understand, things had blown completely apart. The end of nearly three years of work was at hand, and it was time to put together federal indictments and call in the troops. His cover was as deep, as airtight as it had ever been. The meeting to turn his evidence over to Sean Garvey from the home office had been set up with Priority One precautions—four hours of steady movement, half a dozen decoys and back-checkers, and a route along which it was impossible to be followed. But suddenly, Alacante’s men were all over them. And in seconds, just like that, it was over. Not one shot in defense, not one punch. Just … over. Garvey had been hauled away to God only knew where, and Ray had been blindfolded, crammed in the trunk of a Mercedes, and driven back into town. After an hour, he was dragged to the cellar of a house and then through a long, damp tunnel to this basement.
Ray wondered if The Doctor had already been to see Garvey.
Ol’ Garves might hold off for a little while in naming names, Ray figured. But underneath his slick veneer, he was a wimp. The first sight of his own blood, the first hit of real pain—the electric cattle prod or knife or vise or whatever the hell they used—and he would be spilling his guts. He would give up every fucking name he could think of, believing in his heart of hearts that if he didn’t cause Alacante’s people too much trouble, they might let him live. Wrong!
“… Tijuana?… Oh, that would be a guy named Gonzales. He’s had a little fruit stand downtown for the past three years, but he’s really a U.S. Fed.… Vera Cruz? Yeah, I know that guy, too.…
Shit, Garves, I’m sorry,
Santana thought suddenly.
I understand … What the hell. I’m a field man. You’re a suit. I can sit here like King Tut, thinking you’re trash for giving in to them. But they haven’t touched me yet. Besides, you don’t know a tenth of what I do about the Mexican
undercover organization. And I don’t plan on telling that part no matter what. My goddamn initiation into the Road Warriors was worse than anything these creeps can do to me here, for chrissakes. Just do your best, Garves. Just do your best. Try not to make it too easy for them
Another half hour passed. Possibly longer. Santana closed his eyes and wished he could just will himself dead. Or at least asleep. The air in the basement was stagnant and heavy with mold. Sucking it in through his nostrils took so much effort that sleep was impossible. How ironic. After three years, he had amassed enough information for several dozen major indictments. His only real failure was not pinpointing the famous Alacante Pipeline—the tunnel connecting one or more houses in Nogales, Arizona, with counterparts in Nogales, Mexico. Now, unless he was sorely mistaken, he had not only found the Pipeline, he had actually been dragged through it. Eliza was right, as usual. He should have gotten out while he could—started up the landscaping business he was always talking about, and left the heroics to the crazies. Now …
There was a scraping noise behind him—a portion of the wall was being swung aside. Seconds later, Orsino came into view. An Alacante lieutenant and a remorseless killer, Orsino had survived a shotgun blast that had left him without half of his lower lip and jaw. What remained of his mouth was all on the right side of his face. Ray wondered if perhaps Orsino liked it that way.
“It is time,” he growled, with the inflated pride of a small man thrust into the company of a legend. “Time for you to meet The Doctor.”
An average-looking man in his early forties, medium height, stepped forward. His face was remarkable only for how completely
it was. Not handsome, but not unattractive. No unusual features. No tics. No scars. Brown hair cut short. Hairline not receding. No glasses. He was wheeling a stainless steel cart on top of which was a tattered leather valise. His back was turned to Ray as he flipped the suitcase open.