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.
Book One | THE SLAUGHTERHOUSE
PRIVATE BERLIN OCCUPIED the penthouse suite atop a green glass and exposed-steel Bauhaus-style building on the south side of Potsdamer Platz in Berlin’s Mitte district.
Clutching a cup of strong coffee, increasingly worried about her ex-fiancé, and still groggy after less than five hours of sleep, Mattie Engel stepped out of the elevator into the agency’s lobby at a little before noon.
Three days late was not like Chris at all, she thought for what seemed the hundredth time.
Unless he went off with someone.
To Greece. Or to Portugal.
Like we did when we first fell in love.
Private Berlin’s lobby featured polished steel sculptures that depicted milestones in the history of cryptography. She passed one of an Enigma machine, and another that included the death mask of Blaise de Vigenère, the sixteenth-century French secret code genius, whose blank eyes seemed to follow her as she crossed to a retina scan on a black pedestal next to pneumatic doors made of bulletproof glass.
Before she could look into the scanner, Katharina Doruk appeared on the screen above the doors. Olive-skinned with long, wild ringlets of hair, Katharina was one of the most exotically beautiful women Mattie had ever known. She was also one of the toughest—a second-generation Turkish-German who’d grown up in Wedding, a rugged immigrant neighborhood, and the only daughter among six sons.
Katharina peered through her reading glasses. “We’re in the briefing room.”
“Any word?” Mattie asked.
“No, but we’ve got a video conference with Jack in five minutes.”
Mattie tried to suppress the anxiety that firmly took root in her after the screen went dark. She pressed her right eye to the scan, seeing a soft blue light pass left to right. The glass doors opened with a hydraulic sigh.
Mattie trudged down a hallway that overlooked a long, linear park where the ground had been shaped into two huge triangles, one facing west and the other east.
Until the fall of the communist German Democratic Republic, or GDR, the park had been an infamous stretch of the Berlin Wall’s no-man’s-land, a garishly lit, wide, and sandy stretch between the inner and outer cement barriers and the barbed wire and gun towers that had divided the city in two back in 1961.
Ordinarily, Mattie would have paused to look down at the park because, no matter what her mood, it usually made her feel better. The park represented a terrible time in her family’s life, and in her city’s life.
But it was also a powerful symbol of new beginnings, and she believed in new beginnings. New beginnings were the only way to survive.
That morning, however, Mattie could not get herself to look at the park. Deep in her gut, no matter how much she tried to quash it, she feared that Chris’s disappearance hinted at the end of something.
But I wanted us to stop, didn’t I? Didn’t I?
Before Mattie could drown in those questions she ducked into an amphitheater with rising tiers of desks that faced a curved wall of screens glowing flat blue, waiting for a feed.
Katharina sat at a desk on the highest tier beside a man who looked like an aging hippie, with long silver hair, round wire-rimmed glasses, a scruffy beard, and a Grateful Dead tie-dye sweatshirt.
His name was Ernst Gabriel, Dr. Ernst Gabriel, and he was the smartest person Mattie had ever known, a polymath with five advanced degrees, including an MD, a PhD in computer science, and master’s degrees in physics and cultural anthropology.
Gabriel was also a forensics expert and ran Private Berlin’s investigative support system. He’d be the one turning on the tracking system and operating it.
Mattie was climbing the stairs toward Gabriel and Katharina when a tall, muscular, bald man in his late thirties appeared behind them. Tom Burkhart was Private Berlin’s newest hire. Until recently he’d been a top operator with GSG 9, Germany’s elite counterterror unit. He usually ran security details.
Mattie frowned, wondering why Katharina had called him in.
“Hi, Burkhart, Doc,” Mattie said, before kissing Katharina on both cheeks.
She took a seat between Burkhart and Gabriel just as the big screen at the front of the amphitheater blinked and then lit up with the handsome and very tanned face of Jack Morgan, owner and president of Private.
Morgan peered at them and said, “I just got in. I was sailing over from Catalina and don’t have coverage out there. Is he still missing?”
“He is, Jack, going on three days now,” Katharina replied in English. “I’d like permission to activate his chip.”
Morgan winced slightly. “The chip? You’re sure? wouldn’t want to invade his privacy unnecessarily.” His eyes shifted. “Mattie? What do you think? Shouldn’t this be your call?”
Mattie flushed. “Jack, uh, I don’t know if you heard, but we broke off the engagement.”
Morgan looked greatly surprised. “I didn’t. I’m sorry. When?”
“Six weeks ago,” she said. “So it’s entirely your call, Jack.”
Morgan digested that, and then said, “Gabriel, have you had a chance to look at his credit card receipts? His cell phone records?”
“I just got in, myself, but I did manage a quick search,” Gabriel replied. “I’ve got a steady trail of purchases in and around Berlin and Frankfurt, all on his Private card, until this past Thursday evening. And then nothing. And I’ve got a long list of phone calls that ended about the same time. Nothing since. I haven’t dug into the particulars yet.”
Morgan put his hands in a prayer pose. “What was he working on?”
Copyright © 2013 by James Patterson
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.