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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 2

IT TOOK ME ABOUT half an hour of reading through the just-breaking news reports to wrap my blown mind around what was happening.

There had been seven attacks in all. Three in the New York area, and one each in Providence, Detroit, Philly, and Los Angeles. Reports were preliminary, but it was looking like the heads of all five Mafia families involved had been among those massacred in their homes last night by unknown assailants.

Wives were dead, it said. Children. A mobster’s house in Westport, Connecticut, had actually been blown to smithereens.

“ ‘Twenty-three bodies and counting,’ ” I read out loud off the Los Angeles Times website.

Twenty-three dead wasn’t a crime, I thought in utter disbelief. Twenty-three dead was the body count of a land war.

The scope and sophistication of the attacks were daunting. Alarms had been disabled, security tapes removed. It was still early, but there didn’t seem to be any witnesses. In the space of seven hours, several mobsters and their families had been quickly and quietly wiped off the face of the earth.

An unmentioned source tipped off law enforcement that it might be Perrine. The anonymous tipster said that Perrine had offered the American Mafia some sort of partnership a few months back, a deal that was turned down. Not only that, but the article was saying that today was actually Perrine’s forty-fifth birthday.

It definitely could have been Perrine, I knew. The attacks actually made sense when you realized how the cartels worked. The cartels’ brutally simple and efficient negotiating tactic was called plata o plomo on the street. Silver or lead. Take the money or a bullet. Do business with us or die.

It was one thing to strong-arm a bodega owner, I thought, shaking my head. But Perrine apparently had just done it to the entire Mob!

You would need how many men for something like that? I wondered. Fifty? Probably closer to a hundred. I thought about that, about Perrine, out there somewhere, free as a bird, coordinating a hundred highly trained hit men in five cities, like markers on a board. Then I stopped thinking about it. It was way too depressing.

Because it really was an unprecedented power play. The American Mafia had been running the underworld show since—when? Prohibition? Perrine, obviously, was out to change that. He was upping his cartel’s influence and operation, branching out from Mexico and into the good ol’ US of A.

It was truly very scary news that Perrine was on the scene again. Coming from a penniless ghetto in French Guiana, he’d somehow made his way to France, where he joined the army and worked his way into the French special forces. His fellow squad members in the French naval commandos described him as incredibly intelligent and competent, extremely competitive yet witty at times, a talented, natural leader.

What Perrine decided to do with his charismatic talent and elite commando military experience was to return to South America and hire himself out as a mercenary and military consultant to the highest-bidding criminal enterprises he could find. Two bloody decades later, he had risen to become the billionaire head of the largest and most violent cartel in Mexico.

You would have thought that his career was over when I bagged him in New York about a year ago. It wasn’t. He’d had the judge at his own trial murdered and actually managed to escape from the fourteenth floor of the Foley Square Federal Courthouse via helicopter. I should know, because I was there at the time and actually emptied my Glock into the chopper to no avail as it whirlybirded elegant, intelligent Manuel Perrine away.

So you can see why I was concerned as I sat there. Wanted international fugitives usually try to spend their time hiding, not expanding their criminal enterprises. Reports were saying that in the past few months, he had actually joined together his cartel with that of one of his rivals. Los Salvajes, they were calling this new supercartel. The Wild Ones.

And Perrine, at its head, was fast becoming a popular folk hero. Which was a head-scratcher for me, since this Robin Hood, instead of robbing the rich and giving to the poor, smuggled drugs in metric-ton loads and decapitated people.

I began to get extremely pissed off after a bit more reading. So much so that I turned off my phone and just sat there, fuming.

It wasn’t the loss of five Mafia kingpins that I cared so much about. Despite the sweeping, romantic Francis Ford Coppola and HBO portrayals, real mobsters were truly evil, bullying individuals who, when they weren’t ripping everybody off, loved nothing more than to demean and destroy people at every opportunity.

For example, I knew that one of the dearly departed godfathers, Michael Licata, had once pistol-whipped a Bronxville restaurant waiter into a coma for not bringing his mussels marinara fast enough. The fact that last night Licata had been blown up in his own house was something I could learn to live with.

What was really driving me nuts was that Perrine had done it. It was completely unacceptable that Perrine was still free, let alone operational. American law enforcement had never looked so pathetic. I mean, who was on this case?

Not me, that was for sure. After Perrine’s escape, I’d been blackballed. Then, to add insult to injury, after Perrine had left a truck bomb out in front of my West End Avenue building, the feds had put me into witness protection. I’d basically been mothballed.

I love my family, but I can’t describe how upset I was as I sat there, taking in the helpless, hopeless situation.

Perrine was the one who should have been hiding, I thought, wanting to punch something.

Copyright © 2013 by James Patterson

Read by Danny Mastrogiorgio & Henry Leyva

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