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Private Games

Private, the world's most renowned investigation firm, has been commissioned to provide security for the 2012 Olympic games in London. Its agents are the smartest, fastest, and most technologically advanced in the world, and 400 of them have been transferred to London to protect over 10,000 competitors who represent more than 200 countries.

The opening ceremony is still hours away when Private investigator and single father of twins, Nigel Steele, is called to the scene of a ruthless murder. A high-ranking member of the games' organizing committee and his mistress have been killed. It's clear that it wasn't a crime of passion, but one of precise calculation and execution.

Newspaper reporter Karen Pope receives a letter from a person who calls himself Cronus claiming responsibility for the murders. He also proclaims that he will restore the Olympics to their ancient glory and will destroy all who have corrupted the games with lies, cheating, and greed. Karen immediately hires Private to examine the letter, and she and Nigel uncover a criminal genius who won't stop until he's ended the games for good. "America's #1 storyteller" (Forbes) delivers an exhilarating, action-packed thriller that brings the splendor and emotion of the Olympics to a wildly powerful climax.


Chapter 2

CHIEF INSPECTOR ELAINE Pottersfield was one of the finest detectives working for the Metropolitan Police, a twenty-year veteran of the force with a prickly, know-it-all style that got results. Pottersfield had solved more murders in the past two years than any other inspector at Scotland Yard. She was also the only person Knight knew who openly despised his presence.

An attractive woman in her forties, the inspector always put Knight in mind of a borzoi, with her large round eyes, aquiline face, and silver hair that cascaded about her shoulders. When he entered Sir Denton Marshall's kitchen, Pottersfield eyed him down her sharp nose, looking ready to bite at him if she got the chance.

"Peter," she said coldly.

"Elaine," Knight said.

"Not exactly my idea to let you into the crime scene."

"No, I imagine not," replied Knight, fighting to control his emotions, which were heating up by the second. Pottersfield always seemed to have that effect on him. "But here we are. What can you tell me?"

The Scotland Yard inspector did not reply for several moments. Then she finally said, "The maid found him an hour ago out in the garden, or what's left of him, anyway."

Flashing on memories of Sir Denton, the learned and funny man he'd come to know and admire over the past two years, Knight's legs felt wobbly, and he had to put his vinyl-gloved hand out on the counter to steady himself. "What's left of him?"

Pottersfield grimly gestured at the open French door.

Knight absolutely did not want to go out into the garden. He wanted to remember Sir Denton the last time he'd seen him, two weeks before, with his shock of startling white hair, scrubbed pink skin, and easy, infectious laugh.

"I understand if you'd rather not," Pottersfield said. "Inspector Casper said your mother was engaged to Sir Denton. When did that happen?"

"New Year's past," Knight said. He swallowed and moved toward the door, adding bitterly, "They were to be married on Christmas Eve. Another tragedy. Just what I need in my life, isn't it?"

Pottersfield's expression twisted in pain and anger, and she looked at the kitchen floor as Knight went by her and out into the garden.

Outside, the temperature was growing hotter. The air in the garden was still and stank of death and gore. On the flagstone terrace, five quarts of blood—the entire reservoir of Sir Denton's life—had run out and congealed around his decapitated corpse.

"The medical examiner thinks the job was done with a long curved blade that has a serrated edge," Pottersfield said.

Knight again fought off the urge to vomit. He tried to take the entire scene in, to burn it into his mind as if it were a series of photographs and not reality. Keeping everything at arm's length was the only way he knew to get through something like this.

Pottersfield said, "And if you look closely, you'll see some of the blood's been sprayed back toward the body with water from the garden hose. I'd expect the killer did it to wash away footprints and such."

Knight nodded, and then, by sheer force of will, moved his attention beyond the body, deeper into the garden, bypassing forensics techs gathering evidence from the flower beds and turning to a crime-scene photographer snapping away near the back wall.

Knight skirted the corpse by several feet and from that new perspective saw what the photographer was focusing on. It was from ancient Greece, and was one of Sir Denton's prized possessions: a headless limestone statue of an Athenian senator cradling a scroll and holding the hilt of a busted sword.

Sir Denton's head had been placed in the empty space between the statue's shoulders. His face was puffy, lax. His mouth was twisted to the left, as if he were spitting. And his eyes were open, dull, and, to Knight, shockingly forlorn.

For an instant, the Private operative wanted to break down. But then he felt himself swell with outrage. What kind of barbarian would do such a thing? And why? What possible reason could there be to behead Denton Marshall? The man was more than good. He was...

"You're not seeing it all, Peter," Pottersfield said behind him. "Go look at the grass in front of the statue."

Knight closed his hands to fists and walked off the terrace onto the grass, which scratched against the paper booties he wore over his shoes, making a sound that was as annoying to him as fingernails on a chalkboard. Then he saw it and stopped cold.

Five interlocking rings, the symbol of the Olympic Games, had been spray-painted on the grass.

Through the symbol, an X had been smeared in blood.

Copyright © 2012 by James Patterson

Read by Paul Panting

Paul Panting has narrated numerous audio books and has been featured in many BBC Radio Drama plays and readings. His television credits include Silent Witness, The Jury II, and Inspector Lewis.

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