Read Patient Zero Online

Authors: Jonathan Maberry

Patient Zero



Praise for
Patient Zero



“Terrifyingly terrific!”

—Sherrilyn Kenyon, #1
New York Times
bestselling author of the Dark-Hunter series

“A fast-paced, creepy thriller      prickly as a hospital needle      This guy is good.”

—Joe R. Lansdale, author of
Lost Echoes

“Maberry has outdone himself with a deliciously diabolical plot and bone-chilling scenarios.”

—L. A. Banks,
New York Times
author of the Vampire Huntress Legends series

“A first-rate thriller with a bioterror angle that is as horrific as it is plausible      Joe Ledger rules.”

—Douglas Preston, coauthor of
The Wheel of Darkness
The Book of the Dead

“Jonathan Maberry deserves to take his place among the best suspense writers of recent years.”

—John Connolly, author of
The Reapers
The Killing Kind

“His writing is powerful enough to sing with poetry while simultaneously scaring the hell out of you.”

—Tess Gerritsen,
author of
The Keepsake
The Bone Garden

“It is almost impossible to find a noir-thriller; the two genres are so distinct and separate. Until now. Jonathan Maberry has succeeded in merging the two to such a wondrous extent that we may have to coin
just to describe it. This book stole a whole evening and most of a night from me, and I was glad of the theft!
Patient Zero
introduces a cop who is as compelling as any character I’ve read in years. If you took the pace of Grisham, the eerie atmospheric style of Peter Straub or Tom Piccirilli, the Wambaugh-type cop who has become a rarity, and the thriller skill of Lee Child, you’d have the best of all worlds. You’d in fact have Jonathan Maberry’s new novel. This is the new voice of the thriller!”

—Ken Bruen, author of

“This is the coolest book I’ve read since discovering Covert-One. With this new series, Jonathan Maberry becomes my generation’s Robert Ludlum. Joe Ledger is a hero for the new millennium—tough as nails, sharp as a whip, and up for anything. He’s a man who puts honor before his own self-preservation, who rides the edges and isn’t afraid to go down fighting. The story is absolutely riveting and the scariest concept to come down the pike in a long while. I want Ledger to fight all my battles. I dare you to put this book down before the endgame plays out. I dare you.”

—J.T. Ellison, author of

“Fair warning: when you start this book, be sure you have budgeted the time to finish it. It’s very hard to put this one down.
Patient Zero
weaves science, police procedure, and modern anti-terror techniques into a unique blend and tops it off with a larger-than-life character who is utterly believable. I couldn’t put it down.”

—Jerry Pournelle

Patient Zero
is a feast for thriller lovers! It’s a delicious and diabolical stew of genres and traditions. With a pinch of forensic procedural, a dash of hard-boiled noir, a sprinkle of medical thriller, and a tincture of apocalyptic zombie epic, Jonathan Maberry cooks up a succulent meal of mayhem that slyly comments on our paranoid times. The hardshelled hero, Baltimore shamus Joe Ledger, deserves to stand alongside F. Paul Wilson’s Repairman Jack in the pantheon of genre icons. Highest recommendation!”

—Jay Bonansinga, national bestselling
author of
Perfect Victim, Shattered, Twisted,

Patient Zero
is an action-packed novel, filled with unforgettable characters and rapid-fire, spot-on dialogue that makes you eager for more. Within this story, Maberry brings new meaning to the word
ripping it from the pages of folkloric fantasy and shoving it into the realm of horrific plausibility. I defy
to put this novel down after the first two pages: it simply can’t be done!”

—Deborah LeBlanc, president of the Horror Writers Association and
author of
Water Witch
Morbid Curiosity

“Jonathan Maberry has created a new genre. Mixing technology, thrills, chills, and procedural noir, Maberry shows why he is one of the freshest voices in fiction. Every reader will want to ride shotgun on Joe Ledger’s adventures.”

—Scott Nicholson, author of
The Skull Ring

“Smart, scary, and relentless! Maberry’s
Patient Zero
keeps coming at you with action, suspense, and the kind of detail that makes you believe, ‘Yeah, this could really happen.’ ”

—D. H. Dublin, author of
Freezer Burn
Body Trace

“This book KICKS ASS! I read the whole thing with a big crazy grin of pure delight on my face, and I haven’t stopped smiling yet. Zombies! Terrorists! Mad scientists! Heavy weapons! Stuff blowing up! And in the middle of it all, Joe Ledger, one truly badass action hero for the new millennium. You want to know what this book is? It’s pure distilled essence of fun. Take a big ol’ swallow of it and hang on tight, ’cause you ain’t sleeping ’til it’s done with you. But you are gonna love the trip.”

—J. D. Rhoades, author of
Safe and Sound
Good Day in Hell

“A riveting page-turner. Cool stuff! Hooray for Jonathan Maberry. Please give us more Joe Ledger right now!”

—Victor Gischler

“If Stephen King were to get hold of [Vince Flynn’s] Mitch Rapp, you’d have an idea of what Jonathan Maberry has accomplished with the Department of Military Science’s uberagent Joe Ledger.
Patient Zero
is a frightening tale that injects a new level of horror into the already terror-filled post-9/11 world. A bioterror weapon that raises the dead? In Maberry’s masterful hands, you

—Ken Isaacson, author of
Silent Counsel





Also by Jonathan Maberry





Ghost Road Blues


Dead Man’s Song


Bad Moon Rising




Vampire Universe


The Cryptopedia


Zombie CSU





Jonathan Maberry




Patient Zero

















This is a work of fiction. All of the characters, organizations, and events portrayed in this novel are either products of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously.


PATIENT ZERO. Copyright © 2009 by Jonathan Maberry. All rights reserved. Printed in the United States of America. For information, address St. Martin’s Press, 175 Fifth Avenue, New York, N.Y. 10010.


Book design by Jonathan Bennett


Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data


Maberry, Jonathan.

Patient zero : a Joe Ledger novel / Jonathan Maberry—1st ed.

  .      m.

ISBN-13: 978-0-312-38285-8

ISBN-10: 0-312-38285-5

1. Detectives—Maryland—Baltimore—Fiction. 2. Terrorism—Prevention—Fiction. 3. Bioterrorism—Fiction. 4. Zombies—Fiction. I. Title.


PS3613.A19P38    009




First Edition: March 2009


This book is dedicated
to the often unsung
and overlooked heroes
who work in covert operations
and the intelligence communities.



Author’s Note


Much of the technical information in this novel is based upon actual science. With very few exceptions, the surveillance equipment, computer systems, and weapons used by the fictional Department of Military Sciences are real, though several of these items are not yet available on the commercial market.

Prion diseases, including fatal familial insomnia, are also real; the parasites and control diseases used by Gen2000, however, are purely fictitious, though inspired by similar pathogens currently present in science.

A great number of people have provided help, advice, and technical information. Any technical errors still remaining are mine. Also, thanks to Michael Sicilia of Homeland Security; the superb team at the Philadelphia Forensic Science Bureau led by Chief Inspector Keith R. Sadler and Captain Daniel Castro; Ken Coluzzi, Chief of Lower Makefield Police Department; Frank Sessa; Dr. Bruno Vincent of the Institut de Pharmacologie Moléculaire et Cellulaire; Kenneth Storey, Ph.D., Carleton University; Pawel P. Liberski, M.D., Department of Molecular Pathology and Neuropathology, Medical University of Lodz; and Peter Lukacs, M.D.



Part One



A hero is no braver than an ordinary man,
but he is braver five minutes longer.






Chapter One



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.




Chapter Two


Ocean City, Maryland / Saturday, June 27; 10:22 A.M.


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 point man 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 sunbunnies 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
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.”

Buckethead 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 Buckethead 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.

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