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Gone

A crime lord has declared war on America. Only Detective Michael Bennett knows why.

Manuel Perrine doesn't fear anyone or anything. A charismatic and ruthless leader, Perrine slaughters rivals as effortlessly as he wears his trademark white linen suit. Detective Michael Bennett once managed to put Perrine behind bars, the only official in the US ever to accomplish that. But now Perrine is out, and he has sworn to find and kill Bennett and everyone dear to him.

Detective Bennett, along with his ten adopted children, their nanny, and his grandfather, are hidden safely on a rural California farm, with guards courtesy of the FBI's witness protection program. Perrine begins to embark on an escalating series of assassinations across the country, killings whose brazenness and audacity bring into question the possibility of safety and law in the US. The FBI has no choice but to ask Detective Bennett to risk it all in Perrine's war on America.

With explosive action and fierce villainy that rivals James Bond movies at their best, GONE is the next astounding novel by James Patterson.

Prologue | FATHER AND SON

Two

THREE THOUSAND MILES EAST of balmy Serra Retreat, it was cold and raining along the still-dark shore of southwestern Connecticut. Downstairs, in his basement workout room, Michael Licata, recently appointed don of the Bonanno crime family, was covered in sweat and grunting like a Eurotrash tennis pro as he did his Tuesday kettle-bell workout.

As he felt the burn, Licata thought it was sort of ironic that out of all the rooms in his new, $8.8 million mansion on the water in moneyed Westport, Connecticut, he liked this unfinished basement the best. The exposed studs, the sweat stains on the cement, his weights and beat-up heavy bag. Pushing himself to the limit every morning in this unheated, raw room was his way of never forgetting who he was and always would be: the hardest, most ruthless son of a bitch who had ever clawed his way up from the gutter of Sheepshead Bay, Brooklyn.

The short and stocky fifty-year-old dropped the forty-pound kettle bell to the concrete floor with a loud crack as he heard the intercom buzz on the basement phone. It was his wife, he knew from bitter experience. Not even six-thirty a.m. and already she was on his case, wanting some bullshit or other, probably for him to pick up their perpetually late housekeeper, Rita, from the train station again.

And he’d imagined that by working from home instead of from his Arthur Avenue social club in the Bronx, he could get more done. Screw her, he thought, lifting the bell back up. The man of the house wasn’t taking calls at the moment. He was freaking busy.

He was stretched out on the floor, about to do an ass-cracking exercise called the Turkish get-up, when he looked up and saw his wife. She wasn’t alone. Standing there in the doorway with her was his capo and personal bodyguard, Ray “The Psycho” Siconolfi.

Licata literally couldn’t believe his eyes. Because how could it be possible that his stupid wife would bring Ray here, into his sanctuary, to see him shirtless and sweating like a hairy pig in just his bicycle shorts?

“You’re kidding me, right?” Licata said, red-faced, glaring at his wife as he stood.

“It’s my fault?!” Karen shrieked back at him, like his very own silk-pajama-clad witch. “You don’t answer the frigging phone!”

That was it. Licata turned like a shot-putter and slung the kettle bell at her. Before she could move, the fortypound hunk of iron sailed an inch past her ear and went right through the Sheetrock, into the finished part of the basement, popping a stud out of the frame on the way. She moved then, boy. Like a scalded squirrel.

“This better —” Licata said, staring death up into his six-foot five-inch bodyguard’s eyes, “and, Ray, I mean better—be fucking good.”

Ray, ever expressionless, held up a legal-sized yellow envelope.

“Somebody just left this on the gatehouse doorstep,” Ray said, handing it to him. “I heard a truck or something, but when I came out, it was gone.”

“What the —? Is it ticking?” Licata said, shaking his head at him.

“C’mon, boss. Like you pay me to be stupid?” Ray said, hurt. “I fluoroscoped, as usual. It looks like a laptop or something. Also, see, it’s addressed to you, and the return address says it’s from Michael Jr. I wouldn’t have bothered you except I called Mikey’s phone, and there’s no answer. Not on his cell. Not on his house phone.”

“Michael Jr.?” Licata said, turning the envelope in his large hand. His eldest son, Michael, lived in Cali now, where he ran the film unions for the family. Teamsters, cameramen, the whole nine. What the heck was this?

He tore open the envelope. Inside was, of all things, an iPad. It was already turned on, too. On the screen was a video, all set up and ready to go, the Play arrow superimposed over a palm-tree-bookended house that was lit funny. There was a green tinge to it that Licata thought might have been from some kind of night-vision camera.

The green-tinged house was his son’s, he realized, when he peered at the terra-cotta roof. It was Michael Jr.’s new mansion in Malibu. Someone’s surveilling Mikey’s house? The feds, maybe? he thought.

“What is this shit?” Licata said, tapping the screen.

Copyright © 2013 by James Patterson

Read by Danny Mastrogiorgio & Henry Leyva

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