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Private

The police can't help you

Former CIA agent Jack Morgan runs Private, a renowned investigation company with branches around the globe. It is where you go when you need maximum force and maximum discretion. The secrets of the most influential men and women on the planet come to Jack daily—and his staff of investigators use the world's most advanced forensic tools to make and break their cases.

The press will destroy you

Jack is already deep into the investigation of a multimillion-dollar NFL gambling scandal and the unsolved slayings of eighteen schoolgirls when he learns of a horrific murder close to home: his best friend's wife, Jack's former lover, has been killed. It nearly pushes him over the edge. Instead, Jack pushes back and devotes all of Private's resources to tracking down her killer.

Only one place to turn: Private

But Jack doesn't have to play by the rules. As he closes in on the killer and chooses between revenge and justice, Jack has to navigate a workplace love affair that threatens to blow the roof off his plans. With a plot that moves at death-defying speeds, Private is James Patterson's sleekest, most exciting thriller ever.

Part One | FIVE YEARS LATER, AND ALL GOING ACCORDING TO PLAN

Chapter 1

PEOPLE TRUST ME with their secrets, and I’m not exactly sure why. It must be something in my face, probably my eyes. Guinevere Scott-Evans had taken a chance and trusted me with her life and career a couple of months back.

Now she gripped my hand as I helped her out of my dark blue Lamborghini. She moved her narrow hips demurely, straightening out the black dress that fit her perfectly. She was gorgeous, an A-list movie star who was also genuinely funny and smart enough to have graduated from Vanderbilt.

I was Guin’s date tonight for the Golden Globe Awards, her way of thanking me for tailing her rocker husband, who, it turned out, had been cheating on her with another man.

Guin was grieving, I knew, but she had her game face on for the Globes. She wanted to be seen tonight with a hunk—her word—and I could tell she also wanted to feel desirable.

“This’ll be fun, Jack,” she said, squeezing my fingers. “We’re at a great table. Everybody from Columbia Pictures, plus Matt, of course.”

Guin was up for best supporting actress for a love story she’d made with Matt Damon. I thought she had a chance to win; I certainly hoped so. I liked Guin a lot.

The fans out front of the Beverly Hilton were enjoying the pregame warm-up, calling out Guin’s name as we headed up the rope line, cameras snapping away. A fan pointed her phone at me, asking me if I was somebody.

I laughed. “Are you kidding? I’m just arm candy.”

Guin let go of my hand to embrace Ryan Seacrest, who pulled her into the spotlight. The fans wanted her, but she put her arm around my waist and brought me into the shot at her side.

Seacrest went with it, admired the cut of my tux and asked my name. His brow wrinkled as he tried to figure out if he knew me—and then Scarlett Johansson arrived, said “Hi, Jack”—and Guin and I were shooed along the red carpet that ran through the gauntlet of bleachers up to the entrance of the Beverly Hilton.

Wrong time for my cell phone to ring.

“Don’t take it, Jack,” Guin said. “You’re off duty. You’re mine for tonight, okay?” Her smile dimmed, and worry shadowed her beautiful features. “Okay, Jack?”

I glanced at the caller ID. “This’ll just take a second.”

The caller was Andy Cushman, and I couldn’t believe it. Andy was a rock, but the voice on the phone was strained to breaking with tears.

“Jack. I need you to come to the house. I need you here right now.”

“Andy, this is not a good time. Trust me, it isn’t. What’s wrong?”

“It’s Shelby. She’s dead, Jack.”

Copyright © 2010 by James Patterson

Read by Peter Hermann

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