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Burn

Detective Michael Bennett finally returns to New York City—and to the most unsettling, horrific case of his career.

At last, Detective Michael Bennett and his family are coming home to New York City. Thanks to Bennett, the ruthless crime lord whose vengeful mission forced the Bennett family into hiding has been brought down for good.

Back in the city that never sleeps, Bennett takes over a chaotic Outreach Squad in Harlem, where he receives an unusual call: a man claims to have seen a group of well-dressed men holding a bizarre party in a condemend building. With no clear crime or evidence, Bennett dismisses the report. But when a charred body is found in that very same building, he is forced to take the demented caller seriously—and is drawn into an underground criminal world of terrifying depravity.

Prologue | CALIFORNIA LEAVING

Two

“SO-OO,” I SUDDENLY CALLED out into the SUV’s dead silence after five minutes of zigzagging up and down and hither and yon over the roller-coaster roads of the Hollywood Hills. “Anybody read any good books lately?”

I smiled encouragingly at each of the four large gentlemen sitting around me. But try as I might, I couldn’t get the conversational ball rolling. Not one of the armedto-the-teeth business-attired behemoths I was riding with smiled back or even said a word. I thought briefly about trying to start up a hearty round of “Ninety-Nine Bottles of Beer on the Wall” to break the ice, but then I finally dropped my grin and shrugged.

“Yeah, me neither,” I mumbled as I turned back to the bulletproof window. “Exactly. Who reads?”

I guess I couldn’t really blame the fellas for ignoring me. My US Marshal buddies were busy at work, busy keeping their eyes peeled for things like snipers and machine-gun ambushes and IEDs as we made our way from my Hollywood Hills safe house toward downtown Los Angeles.

I was being accompanied by the marshals so early this Monday morning because of a trial. The DEA had tried and convicted five of the recently deceased Manuel “the Sun God” Perrine’s Tepito cartel pals in a huge coke bust and were about to sentence the drug soldiers today.

I was involved because, in addition to the drug charges, the cartel death squad had already been convicted in absentia of the murder of a federal ADA in New York, a woman named Tara McLellan who had been a very close friend of mine.

I’d spoken to her still-devastated family and, death threats or no death threats, I was going to the courtroom today to speak for her at the victim impact statement.

On a happier note, after the trial, it was going to be checkout time for me and the Bennett clan from the Hotel California. The Golden State had been a nice place to visit, but we were finally going back home to the Big Apple where we belonged.

Myself, and especially my stomach, really couldn’t have been happier. The four corners of my carb-jonesing Irish heart—real pizza, real bagels, real rolls, and especially real Italian bread —were a mere day away.

As was our freedom from all this aggravating hiding and security, I thought, glancing at the marshals, who had been nothing but expert in their care of my family during our time in the witness protection program.

In twenty-four hours, we’d finally be home in New York with our lives back.

Now all I had to do was get through them.

“Ninety-nine bottles of beer on the wall,” I hummed to myself as I stared out at the insanely blue California sky.

Copyright © 2014 by James Patterson

Read by Danny Mastrogiorgio

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