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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.

Part One | DON’T FENCE ME IN

Chapter 1

AWAKE AT FIVE O’CLOCK in the morning and unable to sleep with all the incessant peace and quiet, I pushed out through the creaky screen door onto the darkened porch, clutching my morning’s first coffee.

Dr. Seuss was right on the money, I thought with a frown as I sat myself beside a rusting tractor hay rake.

“Oh, the places you’ll go,” I mumbled to the tumbleweeds.

The porch rail I put my feet up on was connected to a ramshackle Victorian farmhouse a few miles south of Susanville, California. Susanville, as absolutely no one knows, is the county seat of Northern California’s Lassen County. The county itself is named after Peter Lassen, a famous frontiersman and Indian fighter, who, I’d learned from my daughter Jane, was murdered under mysterious circumstances in 1859.

As a New York cop forced into exile out here in the exact middle of nowhere for the past eight months, I was seriously thinking about asking someone if I could take a crack at solving Lassen’s cold case. That should give you some indication of how bored I was.

But what are you going to do?

Bored is better than dead, all things considered.

I was sitting on an old wooden chair that we called an Adirondack chair when I was a kid, but that I guess out here was called a Sierra chair, since I could actually see the northern, snow-tipped rim of the Sierra Nevada from my porch. It was cold, and I was sporting, of all things, a Carhartt work coat, worn jeans, and a pair of Wellington boots.

The wellies, knee-high green rubber boots, were perfectly ridiculous-looking but quite necessary. We were living on a cattle ranch now, and no matter how hard you tried not to, you often stepped in things that needed hosing off.

Yeah, I’d stepped in it, all right.

Mere months ago, I’d been your typical happy-go-lucky Irish American NYPD detective with ten adopted kids. Then I arrested Manuel Perrine, a Mexican drug-cartel head. Which would have been fine. Putting drug-dealing murderers into cages, where they belonged, happened to be an avid hobby of mine.

The problem was, the billionaire scumbag escaped custody and put a multimillion-dollar hit out on me and my family.

So there you have it. The feds put us in witness protection, and I’d gone from NYPD Blue to Little House on the Prairie in no time flat. I’d always suspected that “luck of the Irish” was a sarcastic phrase.

If I said I was settling in, I’d be lying. If anything, I was more amazed now at our bizarre new surroundings than on the day we arrived.

When people think of California, they think of surfboards, the Beach Boys, Valley girls. That’s certainly what I and the rest of the Bennett clan all thought we were in for when the feds told us that was where we were headed.

But what we actually ended up getting from the witness protection folks was the other California, the one no one ever talks about. The northern, high-desert boondocks California, with log cabins left behind by settlers turned cannibals, and cow pies left behind by our new, bovine neighbors.

But it wasn’t all bad. The eight-hundred-acre ranch we were now living on was surrounded by devastatingly majestic mountains. And our landlord, Aaron Cody, fifth-generation cattle rancher, couldn’t have been nicer to us. He raised grass-fed cattle and organic you-name-it: eggs, milk, veggies, which he constantly left on our doorstep like some rangy, seventy-five-year-old cowboy Santa Claus. We’d never eaten better.

From my kids’ perspective, there was a definite mix of emotions. The older guys were depressed, still missing their friends and former Facebook profiles. With the younger crowd, it was the opposite. They had fallen in love with farm life and all the animals. And, boy, were there a lot of them. Cody had a veritable zoo half a mile back off the road: horses, dogs, goats, llamas, pigs, chickens.

Our nanny, Mary Catherine, who had grown up on a cattle farm back in Ireland, had hit the ground running. She was in her element, always busy either with the children or helping out our landlord. Cody, a widower, who was obviously head over heels in love with Mary Catherine, said he’d never had a better or prettier hired hand.

And we were safe up here. One thing it’s hard to do to someone who lives half a mile off a main road in the middle of the wilderness is sneak up on them.

At times, I probably could have committed a felony for a real slice of pizza or a bagel, but I was trying to look on the bright side: though the nineteenth-century lifestyle certainly took some getting used to, at least when the dollar collapsed, we’d be good.

So here I was, up early, out on the porch drinking coffee like your classic western men of yore, looking around for my horse so I could ride the range. Actually, I didn’t have a horse or know what “the range” was, so I decided to just read the news on my iPhone.

Beavis and Butt-Head were coming back, I read on the Yahoo! news page. Wasn’t that nice? It was a real comfort to know that the world out beyond the confines of my eight-hundred-acre sanctuary was still going to hell in a gasoline-filled recyclable shopping bag.

It was what I spotted when I thumbed over to the Drudge Report that made me sit up and spill coffee all over my wellies.

MOB WAR!!? 20-Plus Dead! Manuel Perrine Suspected in Multiple Bloodbaths!

Copyright © 2013 by James Patterson

Read by Danny Mastrogiorgio & Henry Leyva

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