Any student should consider themselves lucky to receive an invitation to apply to the Ingraham College of Medicine. About an hour outside of Washington, DC, it’s one of the most respected and prestigious institutions of its kind in the United States. With the school completely subsidized by the Kleederman Foundation, students receive a full-ride scholarship for all four years, including room and board. That’s a hard deal for Quinn Cleary to pass up.
But after she and her new friend, Tim Brown, gain entrance into this dream school, everything soon becomes a waking nightmare as student after student begins behaving as if they were brainwashed. Now Quinn and Tim must hurry to uncover the dark truth before it’s too late . . .
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About the Author
F. Paul Wilson is the author of more than fifty books spanning various genres, including science fiction, horror, thriller, and more. Four of his novels have been New York Times bestsellers, and his work has earned him four Prometheus Awards, the prestigious Inkpot Award from the San Diego Comic-Con, and the Pioneer Award from the RT Booklovers Convention.
Read an Excerpt
"Quinn! Quinn, come on!"
Quinn Cleary heard the voice but continued to stare out over the cluster of buildings below her and at the surrounding fall-dappled hills beyond. From here on the hilltop, the high point on campus, she'd been told she could see three states: Maryland, of course; West Virginia to her right, and Virginia due south, straight ahead.
And down the gentle slope beneath her feet, perhaps a dozen yard below, sat the circle of beige brick and stone buildings — the classrooms, the dorm, the administration and faculty offices, all clustered around the central pond — that made up The Ingraham.
A touch on her arm. She turned. Matt Crawford stood there, dark curly hair, deeply tanned skin, dark eyes looking at her curiously.
"Are you in a trance or something?"
"No. But isn't it beautiful?" She looked again at the manicured sloping lawns, sculpted out of the surrounding wooded acres. "Isn't it almost too good to be true?"
"Yeah, it's great." He gripped her elbow gently. "Come on. We don't want to get too far behind."
Reluctantly, Quinn let herself be turned away from the grand view. Her long legs easily matched Matt's strides as they hurried to catch up with the other hopefuls following Mr. Verran on the campus tour. She was tall and slender — too slender, she thought whenever she'd catch a look at herself in a full-length mirror. Almost boyish looking with her short red-blond hair and her mostly straight-up-and-down body. She'd look at herself morosely and think that the only rounded things on her body were all above the shoulders: a round Irish face with clear pale skin and high-colored cheeks, a round, full-lipped mouth, and big round blue eyes. She'd never liked her face. A dopey Campbell-Soup-Kid face. She'd especially disliked her lips, had always thought they were too fat. She'd looked at her face as a teenager and all she'd seen were those lips. But now her lips were the in thing. Full lips were all the rage. Movie stars were getting their lips injected with silicone to get them to look like the lips Quinn had been born with and had always hated.
Who could figure fashion? Which was why Quinn was rarely in fashion, and when so, purely by accident. She favored loose and comfortable in her slacks, blouses, and sweaters. No tight jeans or stretch pants, and good God, no lycra bicycle pants. She'd look like a spraypainted Olive Oyl. She glanced down at her slacks and her sweater. A little behind the times, perhaps, a bit generous in the cut, but good quality, bought on sale.
Most people wear baggy clothing to hide bulges, she thought. I'm hiding the lack of them.
But Quinn knew neither looks, body type, nor fashion sense would make a difference when she and the others sat for the entrance exam tomorrow morning. What would count then was what was between the ears. And she was pretty sure she had good stuff between her ears.
But was it the right stuff? Was it the stuff The Ingraham College of Medicine wanted from its students?
They've got to take me, Quinn thought. They've just got to.
The Ingraham was like a dream waiting to come true.
Medicine was Quinn's dream — had been since she'd been old enough to dream — and the Ingraham was the only place that could make that dream come true, the only medical school she could afford.
Suddenly she heard running footsteps behind her.
"Hey, Matt! Wait up."
She turned and saw a vaguely familiar-looking guy trotting up the walk from the main campus.
"Timmy!" Matt said, grinning as he held out his hand. "I thought you weren't going to make it."
"Almost didn't," he said. "Got a late start from A.C."
"Atlantic City?" Matt said. "What were you —? Oh, no. You didn't."
Now the newcomer was grinning. "Pass up some easy cash? How could I?"
Matt shook his head in wonder. "You're nuts, Timmy. Completely nuts." He turned to Quinn.
"You remember my roomie Tim Brown, don't you, Quinn?"
Where Matt was average height, dark, and broad-shouldered, Tim was a fair, lanky six footer with sandy brown hair and impenetrable, wire-rimmed, aviator-style dark glasses.
Quinn remembered meeting Tim along with some of Matt's other friends at Dartmouth last year.
"I think so. Green Key Weekend, right?"
Tim lifted his shades and looked at her. His blue eyes were bloodshot.
"If you guys say so. I don't remember much from that weekend." He extended his hand. "Nice to meet you again, Quinn. Is that your first name or your last?"
His hand was cool and dry as Quinn briefly clasped it.
"My last name's Cleary."
"Quinn Cleary." Tim dropped the shades back over his eyes. "That has a nice sound to it."
Quinn felt the sudden warmth in her cheeks and knew their already high color was climbing higher.
"My folks thought so."
She cursed again her tendency to blush at the drop of a hat, even at a throwaway compliment like Tim's. She didn't want him to get the idea that she was attracted to him or anything like that. She might be unattached, but no way was she attracted to Tim Brown. She didn't know him personally, but what she'd heard from Matt during the years those two had roomed together at Dartmouth was more than enough.
Timmy Brown: wild man.
From all accounts he probably had a gambling problem on top of a drinking problem.
But what was he doing here at The Ingraham? He couldn't have been invited to sit for the entrance exam. They only took the MCAT's top scorers. Hadn't Matt told her Tim was a business or economics major? How ...?
She'd worry about that later. No, she wouldn't. She wouldn't worry about it at all. It was none of her business. Her business now was the tour. They were finishing up at the Science Center. So far the tour had been a fantasy. The dorm rooms were like luxury hotel suites; the labs were state of the art; the lecture halls were equipped with the very latest in A-V technology. And now they were about to tour the major medical research facility right on campus. This was a medical Disney World.
But Matt and Tim were hanging back, talking and laughing at some story Tim was telling about the casino he'd been thrown out of last night. They'd last seen each other only days ago yet they were acting like two old war buddies who'd been reunited after years of separation.
Quinn felt a twinge of jealousy. Matt was her friend, had been forever. Their mothers had gone to high school together. She and Matt had fumbled through an attempt at something more than friendship when they were both sixteen, but once they put that behind them, they'd continued on like brother and sister. Or better yet, because there was no hint of sibling rivalry, like close cousins, with Matt coming from the rich wing of the family tree, and Quinn from the poor.
She sighed and told herself to get real. Why was she suddenly feeling possessive about Matt? There had to be things — lots of things — that he shared with Tim that he couldn't share with her.
"Listen," she told them. "I want to catch this end of the tour. I'll meet you later."
She caught up with the rest of the hopefuls. There were about 50 in the group — another fifty had taken the tour this morning — all of them going for their interviews this afternoon and sitting for the test tomorrow. And this was only one of a number of groups taking the test this week. An awful lot of applicants. Quinn had known there would be fierce competition for each seat in next year's class, but this was a bit daunting. The Ingraham took only fifty a year.
I'll make it, she told herself. I have to.
She joined the lead section, all following close behind The Ingraham's chief of security, Louis Verran.
Mr. Verran was a short, dark, balding, stubby man with what looked to be fiveo'clock shadow even though it was only early afternoon. He could have been some sort of middle manager at a bindery or the like. Smoking was not allowed anywhere on The Ingraham campus, he'd told them at the outset, and one of the duties of his office was the strict enforcement of that rule, yet that didn't stop him from carrying an unlit cigar everywhere. He chewed on it once in a while but generally used it as a pointer.
Quinn could not see a cigar without thinking of home — or rather home as it used to be. Her family's Connecticut farm had once grown the tobacco that wrapped cigars like Mr. Verran's, but not any more.
She returned her attention to Mr. Verran, whose body apparently ran on a different thermostat from everybody else's. Despite the chill December wind, he was dressed in a shortsleeve white shirt, no jacket, and seemed perfectly comfortable. Maybe the extra pounds kept him insulated. He was overweight, but brawny rather than blubbery — except for his face and neck. Rolls of fat rode his open collar, pushing up on his jowls and cheeks. He reminded Quinn of a sharpei.
"The Campus Security Office is also located in the Science Center," Mr. Verran said as they passed the fivestory building and their way to the hospital. He had a whiny voice for such a burlylooking man. "On the second floor."
Quinn had noticed security cameras mounted on the walls of all the campus buildings; the Science Center was no exception. Apparently she wasn't the only one who'd noticed.
"Is security a problem here?" someone asked. "Has there been trouble?"
"No, and there never will be. Not with me in charge," he said, flashing a lopsided grin. "It's my job to make sure that anybody who's on this campus belongs here, and to keep out anyone who doesn't. We never lock the labs, libraries, or study halls. They're available to students around the clock. It's my guarantee that as a student here you'll be able to walk anywhere on this campus at any hour of the day or night and not give a second thought to your personal safety. You'll have other things to worry about." Another grin here. "Like your grades."
Nervous laughter from the Ingraham hopefuls.
Quinn had noticed that the group was pretty ethnically balanced. There'd never been many blacks in the rural area where she'd grown up, but she'd become accustomed to black faces everywhere at U. Conn. There were plenty here, along with some Hispanics and Orientals. The Ingraham seemed color blind but not sex blind: there were very few women in the group.
Mr. Verran led them past a guardhouse that watched over a gate in the tenfoot high fence that ran around the campus.
"It's all public access beyond this point," he said, gesturing to the looming eightstory medical center and its multilevel parking lots, all gleaming white in contrast to the masses of beige brick behind them, "but not the campus. You need special ID to get on campus."
He led them on a quick tour of the first floor of the medical center, reeling off facts about the place as they trooped down the wide center corridor: 520 beds, 210 physicians on staff representing every specialty and subspecialty, drawing patients from Washington, DC, Virginia, West Virginia, Pennsylvania, and of course, Maryland. He whisked them past the labs — hematology, special chemistry, virology, parasitology, toxicology, cytology, and on and on — and past the radiology department with its array of every imaging device known to man, and skirted the bustling emergency room.
Quinn didn't understand much of what she was shown — she knew it would take years of medical school before she would begin to understand — but she'd learned enough from her premed courses and her outside reading to know that she had entered a tertiary medical center working on the cutting edge of medical technology.
As they were leaving the center, Quinn heard the sound of an approaching aircraft. She turned with the rest to see a MedEvac helicopter settling on the helipad. She watched breathlessly as a group in whites ran from the hospital and removed a patient on a stretcher.
"How great is this!" someone murmured behind her. Quinn could only nod agreement.
They've got to take me, she thought. I've got to go here.
Mr. Verran dragged them away from the medical complex and back through the gate to the campus. At the entrance to the Science Center, a motion detector opened the double sliding glass doors for the group.
"All right," he said once they were clustered in the lobby. "Everybody wait here while I make sure they're ready for us upstairs."
Quinn watched him walk to the security desk, centered in the lobby like an island in a stream, and speak to the two blueuniformed security guards stationed there. It occurred to her that they looked fairly young and fit, not like the dumpy excops who passed as a security force at the U. Conn campus where she'd spent the past three and a half years.
She wondered why they needed this sort of security — the tenfoothigh cyclone perimeter fence, the guard posts at all the gates. She could see it in an inner city — downtown Baltimore or D.C. maybe — but out here in the woods?
Her musings were interrupted by Mr. Verran's return.
"Okay," he said, clapping his hands and rubbing them together. "They're ready for us. Take the elevators and we'll reassemble on the third floor."
Quinn followed the rest of the tour in a state of rapture. The Ingraham's fivestory hilltop complex was a temple to the art and science of medical research. The third floor was actually a miniature pharmaceutical plant, producing experimental compounds for trials in the treatment of lupus and cancer and AIDS.
They've got to take me, she thought again. I've got to go here.
The fourth floor was a vivarium housing the center's experimental animals. The pungent odor of its inhabitants filled the air. The stacked cages full of doomed rats and mice didn't bother her. As a farm girl she'd learned early on not to get attached to the livestock. But the array of whining dogs, meowing cats, and wideeyed monkeys made her acutely uncomfortable. She was glad to move up to the top floor.
"This is Dr. Alston," Mr. Verran said when they reached the fifth floor. He presented a tall, sallow, gaunt, balding, fiftyish man in a lab coat. He had watery hazel eyes,slightly yellowed teeth, and a string tie. "He's not only Director of Medical Education at The Ingraham, but one of the country's foremost dermatological pathologists." He glanced at Dr. Alston. "Did I say that right?" Dr. Alston smiled and nodded tolerantly.
"Looks like Uncle Creepy," a voice whispered near her ear.
Quinn glanced around and saw Tim Brown standing close behind her. He was still wearing his dark aviator glasses. Indoors. Maybe he wanted to hide his bloodshot eyes.
"I'm going to place you in his hands for the final leg of the tour," Mr. Verran was saying. "The research they're doing up here is so secret even I don't know what's going on."
Dr. Alston stepped forward. His smile toward the security chief was condescending.
"Mr. Verran has a tendency to exaggerate. However, we do try to keep a lid on the data from the fifth floor. Our projects here have commercial applications and we wish to protect the patents. Any profits from those applications will, of course, be plowed back into more research and to maintain funding of the school and the medical center. Follow me, please."
As they trooped after him down the wide hallway, he continued speaking over his shoulder. "I can't show you much, I'm afraid. My own project is in the human trials stage and we must respect the subjects' privacy. But I can tell you that I'm working with a semisynthetic, rejectionproof skin graft which I hope, once perfected, will completely change the lives of burn victims all over the world. But perhaps ... there he is now."
Down the hall ahead of them, someone in a labcoat stepped into the hallway.
"Oh, Walter. Just a moment, please."
The other man turned. He was older, a shorter, and plumper than Dr. Alston. He sported an unruly mane of white hair and bright blue eyes.
"Oh, great," Tim whispered again. "Here's Cousin Eerie."
Quinn turned and gave him a hard look that told him to knock it off.
The man called Walter looked up at Dr. Alston over the tops of his reading glasses, then at the crowd of applicants. He smiled absently.
"Oh, my. Another tour."
"Yes, Walter. Walk us through your section, won't you?"
The shorter man shrugged. "Very well, Arthur. As long as you do the talking."
"This is Dr. Walter Emerson," Dr. Alston announced. "Very possibly the world's top expert in neuropharmacology."
"Really, Arthur —"
Dr. Alston half turned and began moving his shorter, heavier companion down the hall. The group followed, Quinn on the left end of the leading phalanx.
"Dr. Emerson is too modest to tell you so himself, but the work he is doing with a new anesthetic compound is absolutely astounding. He hasn't named it yet, but it does have a code number: 9574. If our animal studies translate to the human nervous system, 9574 will offer total body anesthesia and selective skeletal muscle paralysis. I can't say more than that, but if we're successful, 9574 will revolutionize operative anesthesia."
The tile wall to Quinn's left became plate glass and she stopped, staring.(Continues…)
Excerpted from "The Select"
Copyright © 1993 F. Paul Wilson.
Excerpted by permission of MysteriousPress.com/Open Road Integrated Media.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
A captivating novel of medical intrigue and power.
I really liked this story. All medical thrillers should be as easy to read as this one. Totally captivating and fast paced, this book is why F. Paul Wilson is on my top 5 favorite authors list.
Predictable but good. Unique story line. Nice F Paul Wilson 'stand alone' book.