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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

Three

THE FILM BEGAN WITH the shaky footage of a handheld camera. Someone wasn’t just filming Mikey’s house, either—they were actually past his gate, rushing over his front lawn! After a moment, sound kicked in, an oxygen-tank sound, as if the unseen cameraman might have been a scuba diver or Darth Vader.

Licata let out a gasp as the camera panned right and what looked like a team of ninjas in astronaut suits came around the infinity pool and went up the darkened front steps of Mikey’s house. One of the sons of bitches knelt at the lock, and then, in a flash, his son’s thick wood-andiron mission-style door was swinging inward.

Licata’s free hand clapped over his gaping mouth as he noticed the guns they were carrying. It was some kind of hit! He was watching his worst nightmare come true. Someone was gunning for his son.

“Call Mikey! Call him again!” Licata cried at his bodyguard.

When he looked back down at the screen of the tablet, the unthinkable was happening. The double doors to his son’s upstairs master bedroom were opening. Licata felt his lungs lock as the camera entered the room. He seriously felt like he was going to vomit. He’d never felt so afraid and vulnerable in his entire life.

The camera swung around crazily for a second, and when it steadied, the scuba-masked hit team was holding Mikey Jr., who was struggling and yelling facedown on the mattress. Two of them had also grabbed Mikey’s hugely pregnant wife, Carla. She started screaming as they pinned her by her wrists and ankles to the four-poster bed.

There was a sharp popping sound, and then the screen showed a strange metal cylinder, a canister of some kind. Billowing clouds of white smoke began hissing out as it was tossed onto the bed between his son and daughter-inlaw.

Tear gas? Licata thought woodenly. They were teargassing them? He couldn’t put it together. It made zero sense. What the fuck was this? Some kind of home invasion!? He felt like he was in a dream. He wondered idly if he was going into shock.

Mikey Jr. started convulsing first. The astronaut-suited bastards let him go as he started shaking like he was being electrocuted. After a moment, he started puking violently, with a truly horrendous retching sound. Then Carla started the same horror-movie shit, shaking and shivering like bacon in a pan as snot and puke loudly geysered out of her like they did from the girl in The Exorcist.

The whole time, the camera was panning in and out as a hand moved blankets and sheets out of the way to make sure to get up-close, meticulous footage.

Ten, maybe fifteen seconds into the truly bizarre and hellish spasming, they both stopped moving.

Licata stood there, staring at the screen, unable to speak, unable to think.

His son Michael, the pride of his life, had just been killed right before his eyes.

“Oh, shit, boss! Boss, boss! Look out!” Ray suddenly called.

Licata looked up from the screen.

And dropped the electronic tablet to the cement with a clatter.

The mobster didn’t think his eyes could go any wider, but he was wrong. Out of nowhere, two guys were suddenly standing in the doorway of his workout room, holding shotguns. They were Hispanic —one Doberman lean, the other one squat. They were wearing mechanic’s coveralls and Yankees ball caps, and had bandannas over their faces.

Without warning, without a nod or a word, the shorter guy with the acne shot Ray in the stomach. Licata closed his eyes and jumped back at the deafening sound of the blast. When he opened his eyes again, there was blood all over the small room —on the heavy bag, on the raw concrete walls, even on Licata’s bare chest. Incredibly, Ray, with his bloody belly full of buckshot, kept his feet for a moment. Then the big man walked over toward the weight bench like he was tired and needed to sit down.

He didn’t make it. He fell about a foot before the bench, facedown, cracking his forehead loudly on one of Licata’s dumbbells.

Licata slowly looked from his dead bodyguard to the two silent intruders.

“Why?” Licata said, licking his suddenly dry lips. “You killed my son. Now Ray. Why? Who are you? Why are you doing this? Who sent you?”

There was no response from either of them. They just stared back, their doll’s eyes as flat and dark as the bores of the shotguns trained on his face. They looked like immigrants. Mexicans or Central Americans. They didn’t speak English, Licata realized.

Suddenly, without warning, two sounds came in quick succession from upstairs: a woman’s piercing scream, followed quickly by the boom of a shotgun.

Karen! Licata thought as he screamed himself, rushing forward. But the Doberman guy was waiting for him. With a practiced movement, he smashed the hardened plastic of the shotgun’s butt into Licata’s face, knocking him out as he simultaneously caved in his front teeth.

Copyright © 2013 by James Patterson

Read by Danny Mastrogiorgio & Henry Leyva

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