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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 4

TWENTY MINUTES LATER, WE were rolling up the road toward our landlord’s farm.

Seamus, Brian, Eddie, and the twins took our new Jeep, while Mary Catherine and I piled the rest of the kids into the vintage station wagon that Cody insisted on loaning us. Cody’s awesome wagon was an old Pontiac Tempest muscle car that reminded me of my childhood in the seventies, when seat belts were optional, the cigarette lighter was for firing up Marlboro reds, and even station wagons could haul it off the line.

I was truly impressed with Mary Catherine when I saw all the teens up and about so early. The kids were even talking and joking with each other instead of fighting. Which was saying something, since no one had eaten breakfast yet.

“What’s up with everybody? They seem excited,” I said to Mary Catherine as we rolled up the half mile of dirt road for Cody’s farm. “Seamus hasn’t even insulted me once. What gives?”

“They don’t seem excited. They are excited,” Mary Catherine said. “They love this, Mike. So will you. Watch.”

Cody was already outside his huge modern barn. He was waiting for us by his old green Ford tractor. Behind the tractor was a hay-bale-littered trailer that the kids immediately started piling into after we parked.

“Howdy, Mike. I see you decided to join us this morning,” Cody said, smiling as he shook my hand.

I liked Cody. His son was the special agent in charge at the FBI’s Chicago office, so he knew and respected our whole situation with Perrine. He had actually offered his secluded ranch as a witness protection sanctuary a few times before. We really couldn’t have asked for someone better to hide us and watch our backs than the friendly former marine sergeant and decorated Vietnam vet.

“We can always use another cowpoke in the gang, isn’t that right, kids?” Cody said, squaring his Colorado Rockies baseball cap. “But, of course, we’ll have to see how you do. We like to take on hands on a day-by-day basis around these here parts. How does that suit you?”

“Sounds fair, Aaron,” I said, as everyone laughed at Daddy. “I’ll try not to let you down.”

“Enough yappin’ to the greenhorn, Cody,” Seamus said, smacking the hood of the old tractor. “Time to saddle ’em up and move ’em out.”

We all piled into the trailer, along with Cody’s three black-and-white border collies. I watched as my kids and the super-friendly dogs couldn’t get enough of each other. Mary Catherine was right. The kids really couldn’t have been happier as we rolled out over the fields, bouncing around like a bunch of jumping beans.

We saw the cattle ten minutes later. There were about sixty head of them, milling along an irrigation ditch.

“See, Dad? Those over there are cows,” my seven-yearold son, Trent, said, showing me the ropes as Cody opened the cattle gate. “They’re girl cattle, big but actually kind of nice. You can control ’em. Also, see that wire running along the other end of the field? That’s electric, Dad. Don’t touch it. It’s for keeping the cows in.”

I smiled at Trent’s contagious energy. Back in New York, at this hour, he would have been —where? Stuck in class? And yet here, he was outside, learning about the world and loving every minute of it.

As Cody got us going again, Trent suddenly pointed to a pen we’d passed that had a couple of truly enormous red-and-white bulls in it. They looked like oil tanks with fur.

“Those guys there are bulls, Dad. Boy cows. They’re, um...what did you call the bulls, Mr. Cody?” Trent called up to the farmer.

“Orn-ry,” Cody called back.

“Exactly. Bulls are orn-ry, Dad. Real mean-like. You gotta stay away from them. You can’t even be in the same field as them. Once they see you come over the fence, you have to get back over it real quick, before they come runnin’ like crazy to mow you down!”

“Why do I think this information comes from personal experience, Trent?” I asked.

“Eddie’s the one who does it the most, Dad,” Trent whispered confidentially. “Ricky, too. I just did it once. Cross my heart.”

The trailer stopped. Cody climbed down from the tractor. The border collies, whose names were Flopsy, Mopsy, and Desiree, immediately jumped over the rim of the trailer as Cody whistled.

“Check this out, Dad,” my eldest son, Brian, said, putting his arm over my shoulder.

“Yeah,” said Jane, as the dogs made a beeline for the cattle. “Step back and watch. This is the coolest.”

My kids weren’t kidding. The cattle turned to watch as the three dogs ran in a straight line along the opposite side of the large field. Before the cows knew what was happening, the collies had followed the field’s perimeter and were behind them, with an occasional bark or nip at their hooves to urge them along.

Cody, approaching the side of the slowly driven herd, whistled occasionally to his dogs as they weaved back and forth behind the none-too-happy-looking cows. In minutes, the cows were trotting past the tractor and trailer, jogging through the gate into the lane we had just come up, on their way to the milking barn.

“How did you teach them to do that?” I said, staring at the dogs in awe as Cody came back to the tractor.

“It’s not me,” Cody said, petting the happy, energetic dogs. “It’s in their blood. Border collies are the best herding dogs in the world, Mike. They never stop moving and circling; plus, they always look the cattle in the eye to show them who’s boss.”

As it turned out, I wasn’t done being shocked that morning. Back at the milking barn, Mary Catherine blew me away as she guided the bawling cows into the separate stalls like a farm-girl traffic cop. Then she put on a smock and gloves and hopped down into the sunken gutter between the stalls and started hooking up the cows to the milking equipment. She worked the octopuslike snarl of tubes and pumps like a pro, attaching things to their proper . . . attachments. It was beyond incredible.

“Hey, Mike,” Mary Catherine said, stepping up into the stall, holding a bucket. “Thirsty?” she asked, showing me some milk fresh from the cow.

I leaped back as I almost blew chow. Unlike the cold, white stuff we picked up in cartons from the cooler at the 7-Eleven, this had steam coming off it and was yellow and chunky.

“Come on, Mike. I know you’re thirsty,” Mary Catherine said, smiling, as she sensed my discomfort. She waved the bucket menacingly at me. “Straight up or on the rocks?”

“How about pasteurized and homogenized?” I said, backing away.

“EAT LESS CHICKEN!” Chrissy suddenly yelled to everyone as a clucking chicken landed on the windowsill of the barn.

“And drink less milk,” I said to Mary Catherine.

Copyright © 2013 by James Patterson

Read by Danny Mastrogiorgio & Henry Leyva

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