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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

Four

IT WAS TEN OR so minutes later when Licata came to on the floor of the basement’s tiny utility closet. After spitting his two front teeth from his ruined mouth, the first thing he noticed was that he was cuffed to the water pipe.

Then he noticed the terrible whooshing sound and the rank stench of sulfur.

He glanced through the half-open closet door and saw a severed yellow hose dangling between two of the tiles in the drop ceiling. It was the gas line, Licata realized in horror. Oh, God, no.

Licata went even more nuts when he saw what was sitting on the coffee table halfway across the long room. It was a large, white bath candle.

A large, lit white bath candle.

“Mr. Licata? Yoo-hoo? Are you there? Hello?” said a French-accented voice beside the doorway.

Licata kicked the closet door open all the way, expecting someone to be there. Instead, sitting on a tripod just outside the closet was a massive plasma TV with a whole bunch of cords and some kind of video camera attached to the top of it.

And on the TV screen itself, in super high definition, waved the Mexican drug-cartel kingpin Manuel Perrine.

Licata sat and stared, mesmerized, at the screen. The handsome, light-skinned black man was wearing a white silk shirt, seersucker shorts, a pair of Cartier aviator sunglasses. He was sitting Indian-style on a rattan chaise longue, drinking what looked like a mojito. There was a long, lean woman in a white bikini on the chaise beside him, but Licata couldn’t see her face, just the tan, oiled line of her leg and hip, the toss of white-blond hair on her cinnamon shoulder. They were both barefoot. It looked like they were on a boat.

Licata groaned as his scrambling thoughts began catching traction. About a year ago, Licata had met Perrine in the fed lockup in Lower Manhattan, and for the princely sum of $10 million cash, he had helped the Mexican cartel head escape from federal custody. But does he go away and leave me alone? Licata thought. Of course not. The multilingual maniac calls him up a mere two months after his world-famous escape and insists on working together. Like he needed that kind of heat.

As Licata watched, a beautiful four-or five-year-old dusky girl with light-blue eyes filled the screen. Her cornrowed hair was wet, the sequins of her bright-teal bathing suit twinkling.

“Who’s the funny man, Daddy?” the little girl said as she squatted, peering curiously at Licata.

“Back in the pool now, Bianca. I want you to do two laps of backstroke now,” Perrine said lovingly from behind her. “Daddy’s just watching a grown-up show.”

Licata watched the girl shrug and walk offscreen.

“What do you think of this TV setup? Amazing clarity, yes?” Perrine said, removing his sunglasses to show his sparkling light-blue eyes. “It’s called TelePresence, the latest thing from Cisco Systems. It’s costing me a small fortune, but I couldn’t help myself. I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to see and speak with you one last time.”

Licata opened his mouth to say something, then suddenly found himself weeping.

“Tears, Mr. Licata? Seriously? You of all people know perfectly well that men in this world fall into two categories, tools or enemies. You refused to work with me. What did you think was going to happen?”

Perrine took a sip of his drink and wiped his lips daintily with a napkin before he continued.

“It’s not like I didn’t give you a chance. I offered friendship, remember?” he said. “A mutually beneficial partnership. I explained to you how the world was changing. How I could help you and the American Mafia to weather that transition. In earnest I said these things.

“Do you remember what you said before you hung up on me? It was rather humorous. You said that instead of working with your organization, my Mexican friends and I ought to, and I quote, ‘go back and do what you’re good at: washing dishes and cutting grass.’ ”

He brushed an imaginary speck from the shoulder of his pristine silk shirt.

“Mr. Licata, as you see now, my people aren’t the type that do dishes, and instead of grass, the only things we cut are heads.”

“You’re right,” Licata said, blood from his wrecked mouth flecking the cement floor. “I was wrong, Manuel. Way, way off base to disrespect you like that. I see how serious a player you are. We can help each other. I can help you. We can work it out.”

Perrine laughed as he slipped his shades on and leaned back.

“ ‘We can work it out’?” he said as he put his hands behind his head. “You mean like the famous Beatles song, Mr. Licata? That’s precisely the problem. There’s no time, my friend.”

“But—” Licata said as the downward-flowing gas finally touched the candle flame.

Then Licata, his basement, and most of his obnoxious Connecticut McMansion were instantly vaporized as five thousand cubic feet of natural gas went up all at once in a ripping, reverberating, ground-shuddering blast.

Copyright © 2013 by James Patterson

Read by Danny Mastrogiorgio & Henry Leyva

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