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Private: #1 Suspect

Unsolvable cases

Since former Marine Jack Morgan started Private, it has become the world's most effective investigation firm—sought out by the famous and the powerful to discreetly handle their most intimate problems. Private's investigators are the smartest, the fastest, and the most technologically advanced in the world—and they always uncover the truth.

Impossible murders

When his former lover is found murdered in Jack Morgan's bed, he is instantly the number one suspect. While Jack is under police investigation, the mob strong-arms him into recovering $30 million in stolen pharmaceuticals for them. And the beautiful manager of a luxury hotel chain persuades him to quietly investigate a string of murders at her properties.

The #1 suspect is Jack Morgan

While Jack is fighting for his life, one of his most trusted colleagues threatens to leave Private, and Jack realizes he is confronting the cleverest and most powerful enemies ever. With more action, more intrigue, and more twists than ever before, PRIVATE: #1 SUSPECT is James Patterson at his unstoppable best.

Part One | I DIDN'T DO IT

Chapter 1

THE CAR WAS waiting for me at LAX. Aldo was out at the curb, holding a sign reading, "Welcome Home Mr. Morgan."

I shook Aldo's hand, threw my bags into the trunk, and slid onto the cushy leather seat in the back. I'd done six cities in three days, the return leg from Stockholm turning into a twenty-five-hour journey through airline hell to home.

I was wiped out. And that was an understatement.

"Your packet, Jack," Aldo said, handing a folder over the divider. The cover was marked "Private," the name of my private investigation firm. Our main office was in LA, and we had branches in six countries with clients all over the map who demanded and paid well for services not available through public means.

I had worried lately that we were growing too big too fast, that if big was the enemy of good, great didn't stand a chance. And most of all, I wanted Private to be great.

I tucked the folder from Accounting into my briefcase and as the car surfed into the fast lane, I took out my BlackBerry. Unread messages ran into triple digits, so I chose selectively as I thumbed through the list.

The first e-mail was from Viviana, the stunner who'd sat next to me from London to New York. She sold 3-D teleconferencing equipment, not exactly must-have technology, but it was definitely interesting.

There was a text from Paolo, my security chief in Rome, saying, "Our deadbeat client is now just dead. Details to follow." I mentally kissed a two-hundred-thousand-euro fee good-bye and moved to texts from the home team.

Justine Smith, my confidante and number two at Private, wrote, "We've got some catching up to do, bud. I've left the porch light on." I smiled, thinking that as much as I wanted to see her, I wanted to shower and hit the rack even more.

I sent Justine a reply, then opened a text from Rick Del Rio. "Noccia wants to see you pronto, that prick."

The text was like a gut punch.

Carmine Noccia was the scion of the major Mob family by that name, capo of the Las Vegas branch, and my accidental buddy because of a deal I'd had to make with him six months before. If I never saw Carmine Noccia again, it would be way too soon.

I typed a four-letter reply, sent it to Del Rio, and put my phone back into my pocket as the car turned into my driveway. I collected my bags and watched Aldo back out, making sure he didn't get T-boned on Pacific Coast Highway.

I swiped my electronic key fob across the reader and went through the gate, pressed my finger to the biometric pad, and entered my home sweet home.

For a half second, I thought I smelled roses, but I chalked it up to the delight of standing again in my own house.

I started stripping in the living room and by the time I'd reached the bathroom, I was down to my boxers, which I kicked off outside the shower stall.

I stood under water as hot as I could stand it, then went into my bedroom and hit the wall switch that turned on the lights on either side of the bed.

For a long moment, I stood frozen in the doorway. I couldn't understand what I saw—because it made no sense. How could Colleen be in my bed? Her sweater was soaked with blood.

What the hell was this?

A tasteless prank?

I shouted her name, and then I was on my knees beside the bed, my hand pressing the side of her neck. Her skin was as warm as life—but she had no pulse.

Colleen was wearing a knee-length skirt and a blue cardigan, clothes I'd seen her wear before. Her rose-scented hair was fanned out around her shoulders and her violet-blue eyes were closed. I gripped her shoulders and gently shook her, but her head just lolled.

Oh, Jesus. No.

Colleen was dead.

How in God's name had this happened?

Copyright © 2012 by James Patterson

Read by Scott Sowers

Scott Sowers' Broadway credits include Bus Stop, A Streetcar Named Desire, Inherit the Wind and A Few Good Men (LA Dramalogue Award for Performance). Scott is a lifetime member of The Ensemble Studio Theatre. His many TV credits include HBO's Boardwalk Empire, Law & Order, Cracker and All My Children. Scott's film credits include True Grit, The Ten, The Village, Dead Man Walking, Erin Brockovich, Magnolia, and My Mother Dreams...(winner, 2000 Academy Award for Short Feature).

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