by Dr Robin Cook
Published: Jan 2000 (Paperback)
Published: Mar 1999 (Hardcover)
More book info
From the Book Jacket:
New York City cab driver Yuri Davydov is a disgruntled Russian émigré poised to lash out at the adoptive nation he believes
has denied him the American Dream. A former technician in the Soviet biological weapons system, Biopreparat, Yuri possesses
the knowledge to wreak havoc in his new home. But before he executes his planned pièce de résistance of vengeance, he experiments
first on his suspicious live-in girlfriend, then on a few poor-tipping fares....
Dr. Jack Stapleton and Dr. Laurie Montgomery (both last seen in Chromosome 6) begin to witness some unusual cases in their
capacity as forensic pathologists in the city's medical examiner's office: a young, healthy black woman dies of respiratory
failure, a Greek immigrant succumbs to a sudden, overwhelming pneumonia. At the same time, the pair are pressured from above
to focus on a high-profile string of suspicious deaths of prisoners in police custody. When an unexpected breakthrough persuades
Jack that these seemingly unrelated deaths are really connected murders, his colleagues and superiors are skeptical. Only
Laurie is somewhat convinced. But the question soon becomes whether the pair will solve the puzzle before Yuri unleashes into
the streets of New York the ultimate terror: a modern bioweapon.
With signature skill, Robin Cook has crafted a page-turning thriller rooted in up-to-the-minute biotechnology. Vector
is all-too-plausible fiction at its terrifying best.
Doctor Cook, King of the Mind-bending Medical Thriller (from Coma to Invasion to Toxin), returns with a swoon-worthy killer-poison
more dangerous than any before it.. A vector, as in the title, is a carrier that transmits an infectious agent from one host
to another. Back from Chromosome 6 (1997) are Drs. Jack Stapleton and Laurie Montgomery, forensic pathologists in the New
York Chief Medical Examiner's office....Cook himself believes that a bioterrorist event is, without question, locked into
our future. Not really a thought to minimize, as his cautionary tale observes. Copyright 1999 Kirkus Service, Inc.
Monday, October 18, 4:30 A.M.
The hum of the commuter plane's engines was ragged. One moment they were screaming as the plane headed inexorably earthward,
the next they were eerily silent, as if they had been inadvertently switched off by the pilot.
Jack Stapleton watched in terror, knowing that his family was aboard and there was nothing he could do. The plane was
going to crash! Helplessly he shouted NO! NO! NO!
Jack's shouting mercifully yanked him from the clutches of his recurrent nightmare, and he sat bolt upright in bed. He
was breathing heavily as if he'd been playing full-court basketball, and perspiration dripped from the end of his nose. He
was disoriented until his eyes swept about the interior of his bedroom. The intermittent sound wasn't coming from a commuter
plane. It was his telephone. Its raucous jingle was relentlessly shattering the night.
Jack's eyes shot to the face of his radio alarm clock. The digital numbers glowed in the dark room. It was four-thirty
in the morning! No one called Jack at four-thirty. As he reached for the phone, he remembered all too well the night eight
years ago when he'd been awakened by a phone call informing him that his wife and two children had perished.
Snatching the receiver from its cradle Jack answered the phone with a rasping and panicky voice.
"Uh oh, I think I woke you up," a woman's voice said. There was a significant amount of static on the line.
"I don't know why you'd think that," Jack said, now conscious enough to be sarcastic. "Who is this?"
"It's Laurie. I'm sorry I've awakened you. It couldn't be helped." She giggled.
Jack closed his eyes, then looked back at the clock just to make sure he had not been mistaken. It indeed was four-thirty
in the morning!
"Listen," Laurie continued. "I've got to make this fast. I want to have dinner with you tonight."
"This has got to be a joke," Jack said.
"No joke," Laurie said. "It's important. I have to talk with you, and I'd like to do it over dinner. It's
my treat. Say yes!"
"I guess," Jack said, reluctant to commit.
"I'm going to take that as a yes," Laurie said. "I'll tell you where when I see you at the office later
on this morning. Okay?"
"I suppose," Jack said. He wasn't as awake as he'd thought. His mind wasn't working up to speed.
"Perfect," Laurie said. "See you then."
Jack blinked when he realized Laurie had disconnected. He hung up the phone and stared at it in the darkness. He'd known
Laurie Montgomery for more than four years as a fellow medical examiner in the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner for the
City of New York. He'd also known her as a friend---in fact, more than a friend---and in all that time she'd never called
him so early in the morning. And for good reason. He knew she was not a morning person. . . . [continued]
Laurie liked to read novels far into the night, which made getting up in the morning a daily ordeal for her.
Jack dropped back onto his pillow with the intent of sleeping for another hour and a half. In contrast to Laurie, he was
a morning person, but four-thirty was a bit too early, even for him.
Unfortunately it was soon apparent to Jack that more sleep was not in the offing. Between the phone call and the nightmare,
he couldn't get back to sleep. After half an hour of restless tossing and turning, he threw back the covers and padded into
the bathroom in his sheepskin slippers.
With the light on, Jack regarded himself in the mirror while running a hand over his stubbled face. Absently he noted
the chipped left incisor and the scar high on his forehead, both mementos of some extra-office investigating he'd done in
relation to a series of infectious-disease cases. The unexpected fallout was that Jack had become the de facto guru of infectious
diseases in the medical examiner's office.
Jack smiled at his image. Lately it had occurred to him that if he had been able to look into a crystal ball eight years
previously to see himself now, he would never have recognized himself. Back then, he'd been a relatively portly, midwestern,
suburban ophthalmologist, conservative in dress. Now he was a lean and mean medical examiner in the City of New York with
closely cropped, gray-streaked hair, a chipped tooth, and a scarred face. As far as clothes were concerned, he now favored
bomber jackets, faded jeans, and chambray shirts.
Avoiding thoughts of his family, Jack mulled over Laurie's surprising behavior. It was so out of character. She was always
considerate and concerned about proper etiquette. She would never phone at such an hour without good reason. Jack wondered
what that reason was.
Jack shaved and climbed into the shower while he tried to imagine why Laurie would have called in the middle of the night
to arrange a dinner date. They had dinner together often, but it was usually decided on the spur of the moment. Why would
Laurie need to line a date up at such an hour?
While Jack toweled himself dry, he decided to call Laurie back. It was ridiculous for him to guess what was going on in
her mind. Since she had awakened him as she had, it was only reasonable that she explain herself. But when Jack made the call
he got her answering machine. Thinking she might be in the shower, he left a message asking her to call him right back.
By the time Jack had eaten breakfast it was after six. Since Laurie still hadn't called, Jack tried her again. To his
chagrin, the answering machine picked up for the second time. He hung up in the middle of her outgoing message.
Since it was now light outside, Jack entertained the idea of going to work early. That was when it occurred to him that
perhaps Laurie had telephoned from the office. He was sure she wasn't on call, but . . .
there was the possibility that a case had come in that particularly interested her.
Jack called the medical examiner's office. Marjorie Zankowski, the night communications operator, answered. She told Jack
that she was ninety percent sure that Dr. Laurie Montgomery was not there. She said that the only medical examiner there was
the tour doctor.
With a sense of frustration bordering on anger, Jack gave up. He vowed not to spend any more mental energy trying to figure
out what was on Laurie's mind. Instead he went into his living room and curled up on the couch with one of his many unread
At six-forty-five, Jack got up, tossed aside the reading, and hefted his Cannondale mountain bike from where it leaned
against the living-room wall. With it balanced on his shoulder, he started down the four flights of his tenement. Early in
the morning was the only time of the day that loud quarreling wasn't heard in apartment 2B. On the ground floor, Jack had
to navigate around some trash that had been dropped down the stairwell during the night.
Emerging on West 106th Street, Jack took in a lungful of October air. For the first time that day he felt revived. Climbing
onto his purple bike he headed for Central Park, passing the empty neighborhood basketball court on his left.
A few years ago, on the same day that he had been punched hard enough to chip his front tooth, Jack's first mountain bike
had been stolen. Listening to warnings from his colleagues, particularly Laurie, about the dangers of bike riding in the city,
Jack had resisted buying another. But after being mugged on the subway, Jack had gone ahead with the purchase.
Initially, Jack had been a relatively careful cyclist when riding his new bike. But over time that had changed. Now Jack
was back to his old tricks. While commuting to and from the office, Jack indulged his self-destructive streak by taking a
twice-daily, hair-raising walk on the wild side. Jack believed he had nothing more to lose. His reckless cycling, a habitual
temptation of fate, was a way of saying that if his family had had to die, he should have been with them and maybe he'd join
them sooner rather than later.
By the time Jack arrived at the medical examiner's office on the corner of First Avenue and Thirtieth Street, he'd had
two protracted arguments with taxi drivers and a minor run-in with a city bus. Undaunted and not at all out of breath, Jack
parked his bike on the ground floor next to the Hart Island coffins and made his way up to the ID room. Most people would
have felt on edge after such a harrowing trip. But not Jack. The confrontations and physical exertion calmed him, preparing
him for the day's invariable bureaucratic hurdles.
Jack flicked the edge of Vinnie Amendola's newspaper as he walked by the mortuary tech, who was sitting at his preferred
location at the desk just inside the door. Jack also said hello, but . .
Vinnie ignored him. As usual, Vinnie was committing to memory the previous day's sports stats.
Vinnie had been employed at the ME's office longer than Jack had. He was a good worker, although he'd come close to being
fired a couple of years back for leaking information that had embarrassed the office and had put both Jack and Laurie in harm's
way. The reason Vinnie was censured and put on probation rather than terminated was the extenuating circumstances of his behavior.
An investigation had determined he'd been the victim of extortion by some unsavory underworld figures. Vinnie's father had
had a loose association with the mob.
Jack said hello to Dr. George Fontworth, a corpulent medical examiner colleague who was Jack's senior in the office hierarchy
by seven years. George was just starting his weekly stint as the person who reviewed the previous night's reported deaths,
deciding which would be autopsied and by whom. That was why he was at the office early. Normally, he was the last to arrive.
"A fine welcome," Jack mumbled when George ignored him as Vinnie had. Jack filled his mug with some of the coffee
that Vinnie had made on his arrival. Vinnie came in before the other techs to assist the duty doctor if need arose. One of
his jobs was to brew the coffee in the communal pot.
With his coffee in hand Jack wandered over to George and looked over his shoulder.
"Do you mind?" George said petulantly. He shielded the papers in front of him. One of his pet peeves was people
reading over his shoulder.
Jack and George had never gotten along. Jack had little tolerance for mediocrity and refused on principle to hide his
feelings. George might possess stellar credentials---he had trained with one of the giants in the field of forensic pathology---but
to Jack, his efforts on the job were merely perfunctory. Jack had no respect for the man.
Jack smiled at George's reaction. He got perverse pleasure out of goading him. "Anything particularly interesting?"
Jack asked. He walked around to the front of the desk. With his index finger he began to shuffle through the folders so he
could read the presumed diagnoses.
"I have these in order!" George snapped. He pushed Jack's hand away and restored the physical integrity of his
stacks. He was sorting them according to the cause and manner of death.
"What do you have for me?" Jack asked. One of the things that Jack loved about being a medical examiner was
that he never knew what each day would bring. Every day there was something new. That had not been the case when he was an
ophthalmologist. Back then Jack knew what each day was going to be like three months in advance
Reprinted from Vector by Robin Cook by permission of G. P. Putnam's Sons, a member of Penguin Putnam Inc. Copyright 1999
by Robin Cook