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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 4

JUSTINE SMITH was an elegant, serious-minded, academically brilliant brunette in her midthirties. She was a shrink by trade, a forensic profiler, and Jack Morgan’s number two at Private. Clients trusted her almost as much as they trusted Jack. They also adored her; everyone did.

That evening, she was having dinner with LA’s district attorney, Bobby Petino. Bobby was her best friend and her lover. He was a transplanted New Yorker, a connoisseur of Italian food. He had surprised Justine by picking her up as she was leaving work and driving her to one of their favorite places, Giorgio Baldi’s in Santa Monica.

The restaurant was cozy, casual, family owned; the candlelit tables were close together, comfortably intimate. Several of the customers in the dining room were A-list celebrities, but Bobby’s eyes were on Justine and no one else. Not even Johnny Depp and Denzel Washington, when they walked in laughing and joking as though life were just a big fun movie for them.

Bobby touched his wineglass to hers as Giorgio brought the steaming homemade pasta to the table. There was nobody here but the two of them.

“You know what?” Justine said. “I just love a surprise that puts a truly awful day into reverse. This is perfect. Thank you.”

“All work, no play makes Justine a sad girl,” he said. “And that just won’t do.”

“It’s official. My awful day is in the rearview mirror. I’ve been helping out on a nasty case out of our San Diego office, but it’s done for the day. Yahoo.”

Justine smiled, but Bobby ducked her gaze a little. As if there was something he didn’t want to tell her. They were usually good at reading each other’s minds, but right now Justine didn’t have a clue.

“What is it? Please. Don’t make me guess.”

“I got a call from the chief of police. I was going to tell you after dinner, I swear. Another schoolgirl was killed. They just found her.”

Justine’s mind skidded and spun out of control. She knocked over her wineglass and didn’t move to stop the flow. Her glow was gone, her thoughts shooting back to very bad days in the recent past.

Morgue shots flooded her mind: teenage girls who’d been murdered over the past two years. The poor girls had all been in high school, lived throughout Los Angeles, but most had been from the neighborhoods of East LA. The last girl had been found dead just a month ago.

There had been so much police and media attention on that girl’s death, Justine had almost come to believe that the killer had retreated or even quit. Maybe he was in jail. Or maybe he had died. Wouldn’t that be nice?

But now Bobby had shattered that fantasy, and at least one other she had had about tonight and the possibilities it held for the two of them.

Copyright © 2010 by James Patterson

Read by Peter Hermann

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