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Private Berlin

Private, the world's most respected investigation firm, has branches around the world, each staffed with the smartest, fastest, and most advanced agents, who have cutting-edge forensic tools that not even the most powerful governments possess.

At Private Berlin, agent Chris Schneider has disappeared. Chris had taken a secretive personal leave and hadn't spoken to anyone from the office in days. The Private team retraces his footsteps to the cases he was investigating before his disappearance: a billionaire suspected of cheating on his wife, a world-famous soccer player accused of throwing games, and the owner of a seedy nightclub. They were the last people to see Chris—and they're all suspects. And someone is lying.

The Private team is led to an abandoned Nazi slaughterhouse where all hope vanishes. As Private digs further into Chris's past, a terrifying history is revealed, and they begin to suspect that someone very dangerous and very depraved is responsible for Chris's disappearance. And he's not finished in Berlin. PRIVATE BERLIN has more twists, action, and deception than any other James Patterson thriller ever.

Prologue | THE INVISIBLE MAN

Four

TWENTY MINUTES LATER, Mattie was driving the young countess through the streets of Berlin toward Tegel Airport. She checked her phone at last, seeing that the call had come from Katharina Doruk, her best friend as well as the managing investigator at Private Berlin.

At four in the morning?

She got Katharina’s voice mail and left a message: “Kat, it’s Mattie. Don’t worry. Got the package. Heading to the jet. Get some sleep.”

When Mattie hung up she heard snoring. Sophia was lights-out, face against the window, drooling from the corner of her mouth. Mattie prayed she wouldn’t get sick in the brand-new car. It still had that sweet leather smell.

Fortunately she reached the private air terminal at Tegel International without another accident. She roused Sophia, who looked around blearily, got out, and followed her as if in a trance.

The pilot was inside, filing his flight plan, and told Mattie to get Sophia aboard the jet.

They were entering the jet’s cabin when Mattie’s cell phone rang again.

“Mattie Engel,” she answered.

“It’s Kat.”

Mattie heard weight in her friend’s voice. “What’s wrong?” she asked.

There was a long hesitation before Katharina replied, “Chris is missing.”

Sophia went to a high-backed leather chair and plopped into it. “I need a Coke or something,” she said. “Maybe some rum in it.”

But Mattie ignored her and listened intently to her phone.

“He took personal leave early last week,” Katharina was saying. “He was supposed to be back the day before yesterday, but he never checked in. He still hasn’t. I’ve tried his cell, the house, e-mail, text. Nothing.”

This wasn’t like Chris Schneider at all, Mattie agreed. He was a careful, methodical detective, and a stickler for following the agency’s rules and procedures, which included checking in when you were supposed to.

“You try the chip?” Mattie asked at last.

The year before, Private employees around the world had been offered a small locator chip that could be embedded under the skin of the upper back so they could be found in case of emergencies. Mattie had balked at the idea, thinking that if it was misused it could turn totalitarian in nature.

But to her surprise, Schneider had agreed to the procedure.

“That’s why I was calling,” Katharina replied before hesitating again. “I’m lying in bed, couldn’t sleep after some voodoo tea my mother made me drink. And I was thinking that you could authorize it.”

“I don’t have that authority, Kat,” Mattie said.

“You’re the closest to it, Mattie.”

“Not anymore I’m not. Are you ready to report Chris missing to Kripo?”

“I don’t know. I’m confused. You know...he could be off with someone.”

Mattie hesitated, and then sighed. “I can’t control that.”

“I’d hate to send in a rescue team in that sort of situation.”

“I can see your dilemma, but I can’t help you. Look, you’re going to have to call Jack Morgan to get authorization.”

Morgan owned Private and ran its famous Los Angeles office.

“I put in a call to him an hour ago. He hasn’t gotten back to me.”

Mattie chewed on her lip, then said, “I’m sure he’s okay. But if he hasn’t checked in by noon, say, or if Jack hasn’t called in, we’ll activate the chip.”

“Unless you hear from me, I’ll be at the office at noon,” Katharina said.

“I’ll be there too,” Mattie promised, and hung up.

Outside, thunder boomed and through a porthole window she saw lightning split the sky. Rain began to drum on the roof of the aircraft. Mattie looked over at Sophia, who was watching her with genuine concern.

“Who’s Chris?” Sophia asked softly.

Mattie swallowed at a sick taste seeping into her throat, and then replied, “Until six weeks ago, countess, he was my fiancé.”

Copyright © 2013 by James Patterson

Read by Ari Fliakos & January LaVoy

Ari Fliakos has performed with the award-winning theater ensemble The Wooster Group since 1996. His film credits include Company K and Pills. Ari has appeared on Law & Order, Law & Order: Criminal Intent, Third Watch, The Unusuals, and Unforgettable.

January LaVoy is a New York-based voice, stage, and television actress. She has performed on and Off-Broadway, and appeared extensively in regional theaters across the country. She is best known for her role as Noelle Ortiz on the long-running ABC daytime drama One Life to Live.

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