By the time authorities realize that Ana Bontierre has died from a lethal strain of the avian flu, she has already infected a dozen other residents of a quaint town in northern Wyoming. Investigators from the Centers for Disease Control are puzzled by the strange hand-drawn tattoo on her inner thigh. Within weeks, similar outbreaks occur in Hong Kong, Bangkok, and other metropolises, leading virologists from the CDC, World Health Organization and FBI on a wild goose chase. Eventually, they discover a pattern to the outbreaks. Dr. Jeffrey Plattenburg, a profiler for the FBI, believes that he is dealing with a serial killer who is purposefully infecting selected women with the deadly H5N1 strain of the avian flu. Other prominent doctors believe that the tattoos are a CDC cover-up to hide the fact that the genetic blueprint of the 1918 Spanish flu was stolen. As a global pandemic threatens the world, and thousands of victims lie dead, pharmaceutical companies scramble to mass-produce a flu vaccination. Dr. Plattenburg’s search for the common denominator among the victims leads him back to Wyoming where the Bontierres’ attorney, Mary MacIntosh, follows the clues the pandemic predator has planted and finds herself at the mercy of a madman with a desire to kill on a global scale.
Barnes & Noble.com
Maureen Meehan Aplin
Her twenty-year-old body lay twisted in the center of the Medicine Wheel – a circular alignment of rocks on the western peak of Medicine Mountain in Northern Wyoming. Her long, thick, dark hair was matted to her scalp, caked with coagulated blood and other bodily fluids. It appeared that she had been raped and tortured for days before being set free from torment. Her lips, which had once been luscious and full, were grimy and speckled – as if she’d been forced to drink a cocktail of ground coffee and mud. Her face and neck were covered in odd-shaped, purple bruises, giving the impression that her ruptured blood vessels were desperately trying to escape the horror. Even her skin looked like it had attempted to detach itself from the bone. Yet, she was still breathing.
Two rangers from the United States Forest Service found her ravaged body sprawled on the twenty-eighth stone spoke of the Medicine Wheel. At first glance, they assumed that she was dead. As they approached, they noticed her chest cavity propelling out and heaving in, like a fish suffocating on air. The rangers felt for a pulse, but her veins collapsed and formed bruises the moment they applied pressure. They tried to perform CPR on her, but as they compressed her chest, thick, black mucus spewed from her mouth. They rushed her down the mountain to the nearest hospital in Sheridan, and hurled her onto the first gurney they could find in the emergency room. Nurses and doctors scrambled to find a vein strong enough to accept an IV, but their attempts were futile. The victim’s veins wiggled and collapsed like overcooked spaghetti. Blood was seeping from every orifice of her body. Without an IV, she would soon die, but no vein would hold steady. She coughed a few times – a choking, gagging cough like that of an asthmatic – and when the chunk of a clot oozed its way from her mouth, she appeared to have a reprieve. But the relief only lasted a few seconds before the gagging started again.
Her pupils were dilated and her eyes, although still open, were vacant. She coughed viciously again when the doctors attempted chest compressions. She felt the rough hands of the doctor pushing hard on her sternum, but his efforts did not help her capture any air. Instead, she felt like she was swimming in a sea of mud and that someone was holding her under. She felt the cold blade of scissors cutting her clothes away from her body and heard a woman’s voice.
“We’re losing her, doctor. BP’s down to sixty.”
“We need to get an IV in this girl,” the doctor shouted. “Now!”
The girl heard metal clanging on an instrument tray and felt another cold sting, this time in her foot.
“The vein held,” a nurse shouted, triumphantly.
“Start running a –”
“Holy shit!” the nurse yelled. “The vein . . . disintegrated. She’s losing blood, doctor. BP’s down to fifty. Forty. Hold on, sweetie. Hold on. We need to . . . ”
The girl could not hear the nurse anymore. Noises faded out, but a light shown in. The girl felt an overwhelming sense of warmth and calmness, and felt herself moving closer to the light. Her legs felt like they’d grown wings – butterfly wings – a beautiful shade of lapis. The light filled her up entirely. She did not hear the high-pitched beep.