Patient Zero (A Joe Ledger Novel)

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9781441761767: Patient Zero (A Joe Ledger Novel)

From multiple Bram Stoker Award-winning author Jonathan Maberry comes a major new thriller that combines the best of the New York Times bestselling books World War Z by Max Brooks and James Rollins's Sigma Force Series to kick off the start of a new series featuring Joe Ledger and the Department of Military Sciences (DMS).

When you have to kill the same terrorist twice in one week there's either something wrong with your world or something wrong with your skills -- and there's nothing wrong with Joe Ledger's skills. And that's both a good and a bad thing. It's good because he's a Baltimore detective who has just been secretly recruited by the government to lead a new task force created to deal with the problems that Homeland Security can't handle. This rapid-response group is called the Department of Military Sciences, or the DMS for short. It's bad because his first mission is to help stop a group of terrorists from releasing a dreadful bio-weapon that can turn ordinary people into zombies. The fate of the world hangs in the balance.

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About the Author:

JONATHAN MABERRY is the multiple Bram Stoker Award-winning author of Ghost Road Blues, the first of a trilogy of thrillers with a supernatural bite. A professional writer and writing teacher, he has sold more than 1,100 articles, seventeen nonfiction books, six novels, and two plays. He was inducted into the International Martial Arts Hall of Fame in 2004 largely because of his extensive writings in that field.

Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:


            When you have to kill the same terrorist twice in one week, then there’s either something wrong with your skills or something wrong with your world.

            And there’s nothing wrong with my skills.



Ocean City, Maryland / Saturday, June 27; 10:22 am


            They came for me at the beach.  Nice and slick, two in front, one big cover-man behind in a three-point close while I was reaching for my car door.  Nothing flashy, just three big guys in off-the-rack gray, all of them sweating in the Ocean City heat.

            The pointman held up his hands in a no-problem gesture.  It was a hot Saturday morning and I was in swim-trunks and a Hawaiian shirt with mermaids on it over a Tom Petty t-shirt.  Flip-flops and Wayfarers. My piece was in a locked toolbox in the trunk, with a trigger guard clamped on it.  I was at the beach to look at this year’s crop of sun-bunnies and I’d been off the clock since the shooting pending a Monday morning officer-involved discussion with the OIS team.  It had been a bad scene at the warehouse and they’d put me on administrative leave to give me time to get my head straight about the shootings.  I wasn’t expecting trouble, there shouldn’t have been trouble, and the smooth way these guys boxed me was designed to keep everyone’s emotions in neutral.  I couldn’t have done it better myself.

            “Mr. Ledger...?”

            “Detective Ledger,” I said to be pissy.

            No trace of a smile on the point-guy’s face, only a millimeter of a nod.  He had a head like a bucket.

            “We’d like you to come with us,” he said.

            “Badge me or buzz off.”

            Bucket-head gave me the look, but he pulled out an FBI identification case and held it up.  I stopped reading after the initials.

            “What’s this about?”

            “Would you come with us, please?”

            “I’m off the clock, guys, what’s this about?”

            No answer.

            “Are you aware that I’m scheduled to start at Quantico in three weeks?”

            No answer.

            “You want me to follow you in my car?”  Not that I wanted to try and give these fellows the slip, but my cell was in the glove box of the SUV and it would be nice to check in with the lieutenant on this one.  It had a weird feel to it. Not exactly threatening, just weird.

            “No, sir, we’ll bring you back here after.”

            “After what?”

            No answer.

            I looked at him and then the guy next to him.  I could feel the cover-man behind me.  They were big, they were nicely set –even with peripheral vision I could see that Bucket-head had his weight on the balls of his feet and evenly balanced.  The other front-man was shifted to his right.  He had big knuckles but his hands weren’t scarred.  Probably boxing rather than martial arts; boxers wear gloves.

            They were doing almost everything right except that they were a little too close to me.  You should never get that close. 

            But they looked like the real deal.  It’s hard to fake the FBI look.

            “Okay,” I said.



Ocean City, Maryland / Saturday, June 27; 10:31 am


            Bucket-head sat beside me in the back and the other two sat up front, the cover-man driving the big government Crown Vic.  For all the conversation going on the others might have been mimes.  The air conditioner was turned up and the radio was turned off.  Exciting.

            “I hope we’re not going all the way the hell back to Baltimore.”  That was more than a three-hour ride and I had sand in my shorts.

            “No.”  That was the only word Bucket-head said on the ride.  I settled back to wait.

            I could tell that he was a leftie from the bulge his shoulder rig made.  He kept me on his right side, which meant that his coat flap would impede me grabbing his piece and he could use his right hand as a block to fend me off while he drew.  It was professional and well thought out.  I’d have done almost the same thing.  What I wouldn’t have done, though, was hold onto the leather handstrap by the door like he was doing.  It was the second small mistake he made and I had to wonder if he was testing me or whether there was a little gap between his training and his instincts.

            I settled back and tried to understand this pick-up.  If this had something to do with the action last week on the docks, if I was somehow in trouble for something related to that, then I sure as hell planned to lawyer up when we got wherever we were going.  And I wanted a union rep there, too.  No way this was SOP.  Unless it was some Homeland thing, in which case I’d lawyer up and call my congressman.  That warehouse thing was righteous and I wasn’t going to let anyone say different.

            For the last eighteen months I’d been attached to one of those interjurisdictional taskforces that have popped up everywhere post 9/11.  A few of us from Baltimore PD, some Philly and DC guys, and a mixed bag of Feds: FBI, NSA, ATF, and a few letter combinations I hadn’t seen before.  Nobody really doing much but everyone wanting a finger in the pie in case something juicy happened, and by juicy I mean career beneficial. 

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