Extract: Private Down Under by James Patterson

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Prologue

I’d seen pictures of Justine Smith, Jack Morgan’s No. 2 at Private LA, but she was far more beautiful in the flesh.

I stood at Sydney Airport International Arrivals and watched her waft out of customs with a trolley looking like she was ready for a model shoot – no clue she’d just been on a 14-hour flight.  She was here to launch the latest branch of the Private franchise created by Jack Morgan in LA – a top-notch investigative agency for top-notch people.

I held back, let her family greet her first.  There was her sister, Great, and husband, my new buddy, Brett Thorogood, the Deputy Commissioner of the New South Wales Police, their kids, Nikki, eight and Serge, ten.  Then I stepped forward, shock her hand.

I’d parked my Ferrari 458 Spider in the pick-up zone.  The Thorogoods headed off after we’d all synchronized watches for the launch party tonight and we were off, pulling out of the airport and onto the sun-drenched freeway.

None of us could have known what a fuck of a week we were about to have.

Chapter 1

He can see nothing.

He can hear nothing.

He runs, gasping, hits a hard object – face first.  His nose shatters, sending a cascade of agony through his head and down his spine.  Falls back, slams to the floor.  His head cracking on the concrete.  More pain.

He can see nothing.

He can hear nothing.

The sack hood over his head stinks of sweat and blood.  He tries to loosen the ties, but it’s no good.

He vomits, it hits the fabric, splashes on his face.

He thinks he’ll choke and part of him doesn’t care, wants it.  But the survival genes kick in and he panics, pulls up, the spew running down his shirt.  He reaches out and touches the wall. Moves left as fast as he can.  He feels the vibration of feet, people running toward him.

A burst of terrible agony in his back.  Two thumps propel him to the wall.  He smells fresh blood.  He smells tire rubber.  Another crunch, his thigh exploding.  But he keeps to the wall, sweat running down his ruined face, blood drops from his nose, his leg, his back.  He feels wet all over.  He’s a leaking sieve, his life draining away.  The pain in his legs screams.  The hood fabric sucks into his mouth.

He has to keep going. “MOVE OR DIE…MOVE OR DIE,” a voice bellows in his head.  Shrapnel clips his ear.  He screeches, feels his guts heave.  Another bullet thunders past his head, but he doesn’t hear it, just feels the air tremble.  Dust and concrete chips hit him in the face.  His legs start to buckle, but he refuses to give in.

“MOVE OR DIE.  MOVE OR DIE.”

He feels a door, pushes, stumbles through, trips, hits the concrete floor again.  Blood splashes across the floor, up the walls.  He pulls up once more.

He’s on a roller coaster, at the park with Grandma.  He’s four years old.  Then he’s floating in space.  No reference points.

He can see nothing.

He can hear nothing.

He sense the air tremble again.

He touches wood.  Another door.  It moves forward.  He’s falling…and dies before he hits the ground.

Chapter 2

I heard the crash from the other side of the room and for a second I thought one of the hired caterers had screwed up.  But then a woman screamed and I was dashing across reception.

I caught a glimpse of my right-hand woman, Mary Clarke, spin on her heel.  She’s a big, muscly girl but has the reaction time of Usain Bolt off the blocks.

I saw the blood first.  A smear, then a dark pool spreading out across the marble.  The man lay spread-eagled on the floor, face down, torn apart, gaping holes in his back, his right leg shattered, twisted obscenely under him.  A hood over his head.

I crouched down as Justine Smith ran up.

Pulling a tissue from my pocket, I wrapped it around my fingers, turned the body over and tried to remove the hood, but it was tied fast.  I glanced up to see Deputy Commissioner Thorogood.

“Jesus!” he said as he lowered beside me.

“Multiple gunshot wounds.  Twice in the back, leg.” I said and tilted the body so Thorogood could see the ragged circles in the guy’s linen jacket.

Darlene, Private’s tech guru, squatted down close to the body.  She’s usually in a lab coat over jeans, but tonight she was wearing a red cocktail dress that accentuated her incredible curves.  She pulled on latex gloves, removed a sharp implement from her clutch purse.  Leaning forward, she cut the ties of the hood and eased up the fabric.

“Holy Christ!” Thorogood exclaimed.

Chapter 3

His eyes had been gouged out.  There were two red craters in their place.  The skin was jagged, blood oozing.  A gray bundle of nerves snaked from the left socket and stuck to the skin of the man’s cheek.

It was hard to tell for sure, but he looked like a young kid, maybe late teens, twenty tops.  The rest of his face was smeared, his nose smashed to hell.

I heard Johnny Ishmah, the youngest of my team, behind me.  I turned to him. “Johnny get everyone out.” Then I saw Mary.  “Come with me.”

The Deputy Commissioner straightened and pulled out his cell as he walked away.

I heard him say “Inspector…”  His boys would be here in minutes.

“Well, not your average gatecrasher,” I heard Darlene mumble as Mary and I headed for the door.

“Blood trail.” I flicked a glance at the floor just beyond the door

“Passage leads ahead to the garage”, Mary responded

There was a slew of blood across the concrete, up the walls.  Picking our way round the puddles I leaned on the second door and we were out onto “Garage Level 1”.  Plenty of blood still, oval droplets on the rough concrete.  The sort of splashes someone makes when they are running and bleeding at the same time.

The poor kid had stopped here, blood had pooled into a patch about two feet wide that was ripplng away toward a drain in the floor.  The trail led off to the left.  Three cars stood there, a Merc, a Prius and my black Spider.  Tire marks close to the bend, more blood.

I bent down and picked up a shell casing, holding it in the tissue still in my hand.

“.357 Sig,” Mary said.  She was ex-Military Police, knew a thing or two.

“Pros.”

“Must be cameras everywhere.” She glanced around

“Small garage.  There’s a guard at the gate.  He has a security camera system.” I turned and led the way back.  The road narrowed , a barrier twenty yards ahead.  Next to that, a booth.

I could see immediately the place was hit.  Glass everywhere, the guard slumped unconscious, a row of monitors and inch from his head.  The cable to the hard drive dangling.  Standard system…record the garage for twelve-hour rotations on a terbyte hard drive.  Wipe it, start again.

“Took the hard drive,” Mary said nodding at the lead.

I crouched down beside the guard and lifted his head gently.  He stirred, pulled back and went for his gun.  That had gone too.

“Whoa buddy!” Mary exclaimed, palms up.

The guy recognised me. “Mr Gisto.’ He ran a hand over his forehead.  “Holy shit…”

“Easy, pal.” I placed a hand on his shoulder.  “Remember anything?”

He sighed.  “Couple of guys in black hoodies.  It all happened so bloody quick…”

“Alright,” I said, turning to Mary.  There was a sudden movement beyond the booth window. A cop in a power stance, finger poised to the trigger.

A second later Deputy Commissioner Thorogood appeared in the doorway, touched the offier’s arm.  “Put it down, constable.”

It was then I saw the third guy, standing next to Thorogood.  Middle build, five-ten, hard, lived-in face.  I recognised him immediately and felt a jolt of painful memories.  Covered it well.  I knew he instantly recognized me, but he pretended he hadn’t. The devious son of a bitch.

———–

Know more about the book here: http://bit.ly/1dba39A

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