Las Vegas is a city of contradictions: seedy and glamorous, secretive and wild, Vegas attracts people of all kinds—especially those with a secret to hide, or a life to leave behind. It's the perfect location for Lester Olsen's lucrative business. He gets to treat gorgeous, young women to five-star restaurants, splashy shows, and limo rides—and then he teaches them how to kill.
Private Jack Morgan spends most of his time in Los Angeles, where his top investigation firm has its headquarters. But a hunt for two criminals leads him to the city of sin—and to a murder ring that is more seductively threatening than anything he's witnessed before. PRIVATE VEGAS brings James Patterson's Private series to a sensational new level.
Prologue | START YOUR ENGINES
LORI KIMBALL HAD three rules for the death race home.
One, no brakes.
Two, no horn.
Three, beat her best time by ten seconds, every day.
She turned off her phone, stowed it in the glove box.
On your mark. Get set.
She slammed the visor into the upright position, shoved the Electric Flag’s cover of Howlin’ Wolf ’s “Killing Floor” into the CD drive, pressed the start button on the timer she wore on a cord around her neck.
Lori stepped on the gas, and her Infiniti EX crossover shot up the ramp and onto the 110 as if it could read her mind.
It was exactly ten miles from this freeway entrance to her home in Glendale. Her record was twelve minutes and ten seconds, and that record was made to be broken.
The road was dry, the sun was dull, traffic was moving. Conditions were perfect. She was flying along the canyon floor, the roadway banked on both sides, forming a chute through the four consecutive Figueroa tunnels.
Lori rode the taillights of the maroon 2013 Audi in front of her, resisting the urge to mash the horn with the palm of her hand—until the Audi braked to show her he wasn’t going to budge.
Her ten-year-old boy, Justin, did this when he didn’t want to go to school. He. Just. Slowed. Down.
Lori didn’t have to put up with this. She peeled out into the center lane, maneuvered around an old Ford junker in her way. As soon as she passed the Audi, she wrenched the wheel hard to the left and recaptured the fast lane.
This was it.
At this point, three lanes headed north on the 110, and the lane on the far left exited and merged into the 5. Lori accelerated to seventy, flew past a champagne-colored ’01 Caddy that was lounging at sixty to the right of her, and proceeded to tear up the fast lane.
As she drove, Lori amped up the decibels, and the eleven-speaker Bose pounded out the blend of rock and urban blues. Lori was now in a state that was as close to soaring flight as she could get without actually leaving the ground.
Lori was six minutes into the race and had passed the halfway mark. She was gaining seconds on her best time, feeling the adrenaline burn out to the tips of her fingers, to the ends of her hair.
She was in the hot zone, cruising at a steady seventy-two when a black BMW convertible edged into her lane as if it had a right to be there.
Lori wouldn’t accept that.
No brakes. No horn.
She flashed her lights, then saw her opening, a sliver of empty space to her right. She jerked the wheel and careened into the middle lane, her car just missing the Beemer’s left rear fender.
Oh, wow, the look on the driver’s face.
“It’s a race, don’tcha get it,” she screamed into the 360-degree monitor on the dash. She was lost in the ecstasy of the moment when the light dimmed and the back end of a gray panel van filled her windshield.
Where had that van come from? Where?
Lori stood on the brakes. The tires screeched as the Infiniti skidded violently from side to side, the safety package doing all it could to prevent the inevitable rear-end smashup.
The brakes finally caught at the last moment —as the van pulled ahead.
Lori gripped the wheel with sweating hands, hardly believing that there had been no crash of steel against steel, no lunge against the shoulder straps, no shocking blunt force of an airbag explosion. She heard nothing but the wailing of the Electric Flag and the rasping sound of her own shaky breaths.
Lori snapped off the music, and with car horns blaring around her, she eased off the brakes, applied the gas. Sweat rolled down the sides of her face and dripped from her nose.
Yes, she called it the death race home, but she didn’t want to die. She had three kids. She loved her husband. And although her job was boring, at least she had a job.
What in God’s name was wrong with her?
“I don’t know,” she said to herself. “I just don’t know.”
Lori took a deep, sobering breath and stared straight ahead. The Beemer slowed to her speed, and the driver, his face contorted in fury, yelled silently at her through his closed window.
To her surprise, Lori started to cry.
Copyright © 2015 by James Patterson