Lost in his dedication to patients who would die without his help, Stuart Holton unwittingly carries in the wake of his benevolence third serpent on his caduceus, a viper poisonous unto death, the woman who has secretly stalked him for sixteen years. She has lived in a lost identity since fire scarred and maimed her at the age of five, and she seeks to find her true self through the pursuit of a long sought love and by bringing merciful death to the suffering. Holton's wife dies mysteriously, and terminal patients beyond treatment are routinely found dead in remote and neglected beds in far reaches of the large hospital wards. Then, people who are not terminal begin to die under troubling circumstances. On the evidence, these deaths can't quite be called murder. In Hera's Journal, the woman describes her daily activities along with many of the hospital abuses, including malpractice and numerous everyday human errors causing preventable deaths and injuries. Memory of fire draws her and threatens to flare again in the fury aroused by the injustices and by her frustration with abortion, birth control, the sight of abused children, and the useless prolongation of life in the throes of terminal maladies and suffering. Imprisoned in this anguish and futility by the injuries of fire, she tries to escape through gaining control. If she fails, the only release ultimately will be the same fire. She tries desperately, but despite all her mercy and love, nothing works. Finally she must remove everything standing in her way. And if she can't have the man she loves at any cost, then he must go too.
The dilemma about his wife's death four years past and his suspicions of murder and euthanasia in the hospital, continues until Holton's children awaken him to virtual reality, and he immediately sees the possibilities of using it to reconstruct the past and to predict future events in the hospital environment. He enrolls the aid of forensic psychiatry, and with the addition of fuzzy logic and artificial intelligence they begin to unravel the mystery as the woman mounts her attack on his housekeeper, his children, and the new woman who has just appeared in his life. Holton, finally alert to the dangers, tries desperately to defend his family from the relentless stalker carrying little syringes loaded with instant death, hidden packets of deadly poisons, and a drawn stiletto as she lunges at his heart in the raging inferno of her derangement.