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Private: #1 Suspect

Unsolvable cases

Since former Marine Jack Morgan started Private, it has become the world's most effective investigation firm—sought out by the famous and the powerful to discreetly handle their most intimate problems. Private's investigators are the smartest, the fastest, and the most technologically advanced in the world—and they always uncover the truth.

Impossible murders

When his former lover is found murdered in Jack Morgan's bed, he is instantly the number one suspect. While Jack is under police investigation, the mob strong-arms him into recovering $30 million in stolen pharmaceuticals for them. And the beautiful manager of a luxury hotel chain persuades him to quietly investigate a string of murders at her properties.

The #1 suspect is Jack Morgan

While Jack is fighting for his life, one of his most trusted colleagues threatens to leave Private, and Jack realizes he is confronting the cleverest and most powerful enemies ever. With more action, more intrigue, and more twists than ever before, PRIVATE: #1 SUSPECT is James Patterson at his unstoppable best.

Prologue | SHOTS IN THE DARK

One

A DARK SEDAN turned off Pacific Coast Highway and slipped into the driveway of a gated Malibu beach house worth, had to be, seven or eight million.

The driver buzzed down his window and passed an electronic entry key over the reader.

The pair of high wrought-iron gates rolled open, and the sedan pulled up to the garage doors, the gates closing smoothly behind it. The driver got out of his car and looked around.

He was a medium-height white guy in his thirties, short brown hair, wearing a denim jacket, khaki pants, rubber-soled shoes, latex gloves. He saw that the cool modern house was screened entirely by shrubbery and protective fencing, hiding it from the road and neighboring homes.

He approached the alcove that framed the front door, noted the security camera focused on him and the biometric keypad.

Returning to the car, the driver opened a back door and said, "Last stop, young lady."

He leaned into the backseat and pulled out a slightly built female with long black hair. She was out of it, completely unconscious. Smelled like roses and soap. With a grunt, the man maneuvered the limp body, slung her over his shoulder.

When he got back to the door, he pressed the female's finger to the pad, and the door lock thwacked open.

They were in.

The man in the denim jacket didn't turn on the lights. Sun came through the extensively glassed walls, bounced off the floor tiles, and made everything plenty bright enough to see.

The foyer led to a large skylighted living area with rounded walls and curved windows facing the ocean. To the left was a hallway to the master bedroom and bath. The man opened the bedroom door with his foot, and when he reached the bed, he eased the woman off his shoulder and arranged her on the blue-and-white pinstriped bedding.

He fixed a pillow under her head, then went to the window seat. Under the hinged lid was a metal box, and inside that, a custom Kimber .45 handgun. The guy in the denim jacket popped out the magazine, checked it, slammed it back in with his gloved hand. The gun was loaded.

He returned to the side of the bed and, aiming carefully, shot the woman in the chest at close range. Her body bucked, but when he pumped in the second and third shots, she didn't stir. He picked up the three spent shell casings and pocketed them.

The shooter took the receiver from the phone beside the bed. He dialed while looking out the windows to the beach.

The killer hung up the phone without speaking. Then he left the bedroom and found the media center in the living room. He opened all of the cabinet doors, rifled through the compartments, and located the security system hard drive at the back.

He unplugged the drive and tucked it under his arm, then he exited the house through the front door. Once outside, he scraped away some mulch at the foot of a bougainvillea vine that scrambled thickly over the fence. He buried the gun in the shallow trench and covered it up with chipped bark.

He got back into his vehicle, started it up, and passed the electronic key across the reader on the opposite post. Once the gates had opened, he backed his car slowly into the emergency lane. Then he edged out onto the highway and headed north.

He was already thinking about this seafood restaurant in Santa Barbara called Brophy Bros. He loved that place. The clam bar had steamers, a Dungeness crab platter, and oysters on the half shell. He'd get a bottle of something worthy of his first-class day's work.

The shooter popped a Van Halen CD into the player and smiled as the dark sedan blended into the stream of traffic.

Copyright © 2012 by James Patterson

Read by Scott Sowers

Scott Sowers' Broadway credits include Bus Stop, A Streetcar Named Desire, Inherit the Wind and A Few Good Men (LA Dramalogue Award for Performance). Scott is a lifetime member of The Ensemble Studio Theatre. His many TV credits include HBO's Boardwalk Empire, Law & Order, Cracker and All My Children. Scott's film credits include True Grit, The Ten, The Village, Dead Man Walking, Erin Brockovich, Magnolia, and My Mother Dreams...(winner, 2000 Academy Award for Short Feature).

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