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Private Berlin

Private, the world's most respected investigation firm, has branches around the world, each staffed with the smartest, fastest, and most advanced agents, who have cutting-edge forensic tools that not even the most powerful governments possess.

At Private Berlin, agent Chris Schneider has disappeared. Chris had taken a secretive personal leave and hadn't spoken to anyone from the office in days. The Private team retraces his footsteps to the cases he was investigating before his disappearance: a billionaire suspected of cheating on his wife, a world-famous soccer player accused of throwing games, and the owner of a seedy nightclub. They were the last people to see Chris—and they're all suspects. And someone is lying.

The Private team is led to an abandoned Nazi slaughterhouse where all hope vanishes. As Private digs further into Chris's past, a terrifying history is revealed, and they begin to suspect that someone very dangerous and very depraved is responsible for Chris's disappearance. And he's not finished in Berlin. PRIVATE BERLIN has more twists, action, and deception than any other James Patterson thriller ever.

Prologue | THE INVISIBLE MAN

Five

AS DAWN APPROACHES, I find myself standing in a room with mirrors for walls and ceiling, and a big round bed with red sheets.

I am naked in this room of mirrors, stripped of all disguises save one—the reconstructed face a surgeon in the Ivory Coast gave me twenty-three years ago.

I look at my face, this ultimate mask, and smile because no one would ever know that behind it is me, and because a rare beauty has agreed to join me here in this room of reflection and pleasure.

Except for the snakeskin stiletto heels, the stunning brown woman shutting the door is naked too. She’s from Guadeloupe, or so she says. Her name is Genevieve. Or so she says.

Whoever she really is, she smiles weakly as I set the canvas bag I carry on the bed.

“I have seen you around before,” she says in an uncertain French accent.

I don’t even blink. “Have you now?”

“I think.” She looks at my case and tenses. “What’s in there?”

“Don’t worry,” I say. “It’s something rare and beautiful.”

She nods, but there’s no conviction in the gesture.

“You seem concerned,” I say.

She rubs her hands together. “Just nerves. One of my friends here, Ilse? She disappeared last week. You might have seen her. A spinner? German?”

I wave my hand dismissively. “I don’t remember names, my dear. They’re artificial. Made up. I mean, do you use your real name here, Genevieve?”

She hesitates, but then shakes her head.

“There you go now,” I say in a teasing, friendly manner. “It’s all a fantasy. You can be whatever person you want to be. Or anything you want to be. I am comfortable with that. Are you?”

Her eyes shift, pause, and then she nods the tiniest of nods.

“Good,” I say, but part of me feels a twinge of anxiety. Did she see me with Ilse? No. That’s impossible. I’m certain we were alone at all times.

And so I open the bag, revealing a primitive ivory and black leather mask crafted as a leering monster. The stain and lacquer finish is cracked with time, and burnished in places. But the lips have retained their deep henna color.

So have the areas around the slits cut for the wearer’s eyes.

“A Chokwe tribesman in the Congo made it a hundred years ago,” I tell Genevieve. “It’s very rare. It cost me a small fortune.”

I put the mask on, hooking the hemp straps that hold it to my face so I can see clearly through the eye slits.

The mask smells of Africa, of moldering wood and nutmeg and roasting peppers. My breath echoes inside the mask, slow and languid, like a leopard contemplating prey.

I gesture for Genevieve to lie down on her back on the bed. She’s staring at me, and at my mask, and there’s enough fear in her eyes that I feel myself stir and harden.

That, my friends, is just perfect. Her mind is playing games, inventing scenarios far worse than what I have in mind for a late, late-night delight.

Isn’t it interesting how that works, that the mere suggestion of threat stirs the darkest regions of the mind?

Sensing her fear, indeed feeding on it, I kneel next to Genevieve, caressing her soft cocoa breasts, and then slide my fingers into her bare mystery, all the time glancing around at the mirrors that surround me, admiring my newest mask from an array of perspectives.

I am not a young man, but I tell you one and all that my manhood stands like a spear when Genevieve begins to writhe under my insistent touch. It’s an anxious writhing, and that only fuels me more until it’s simply impossible to keep my desires at bay any longer.

Pulling her around and throwing back her legs, I poise to enter her, my hips cocked. The breath of the beast I’m becoming rasps from my throat in sharp, cutting bursts.

Genevieve looks up, clearly frightened by the monster crouched above her, which only excites me more.

“What is your name, chéri?” she asks in a quivering voice. “What should I call you while we have sex?”

“Me?” I say, and then thrust savagely into her. “I am the Invisible Man.”

Copyright © 2013 by James Patterson

Read by Ari Fliakos & January LaVoy

Ari Fliakos has performed with the award-winning theater ensemble The Wooster Group since 1996. His film credits include Company K and Pills. Ari has appeared on Law & Order, Law & Order: Criminal Intent, Third Watch, The Unusuals, and Unforgettable.

January LaVoy is a New York-based voice, stage, and television actress. She has performed on and Off-Broadway, and appeared extensively in regional theaters across the country. She is best known for her role as Noelle Ortiz on the long-running ABC daytime drama One Life to Live.

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