Private India: (Private 8), страница 1
About the Book
About the Authors
Also by James Patterson
About the Book
When Santosh Wagh isn’t struggling out of a bottle of whisky he’s head of Private India, the Mumbai branch of the world’s finest PI agency.
In a city of over thirteen million he has his work cut out at the best of times. But now someone is killing women – seemingly unconnected women murdered in a chilling ritual, with strange objects placed carefully at their death scenes.
As Santosh and his team race to find the killer, an even greater danger faces Private India – a danger that could threaten the lives of thousands of innocent Mumbai citizens …
About the Authors
JAMES PATTERSON is one of the best-known and biggest-selling writers of all time. He is the author of some of the most popular series of the past decade – the Alex Cross, Women’s Murder Club and Detective Michael Bennett novels – and he has written many other number one bestsellers including romance novels and stand-alone thrillers. He lives in Florida with his wife and son.
James is passionate about encouraging children to read. Inspired by his own son who was a reluctant reader, he also writes a range of books specifically for young readers. James is a founding partner of Booktrust’s Children’s Reading Fund in the UK. James Patterson has been the most borrowed author in UK libraries for the past seven years in a row.
Find out more at www.jamespatterson.co.uk
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ASHWIN SANGHI is counted among India’s highest-selling English fiction authors. He has written three novels, all bestsellers – The Rozabal Line, Chanakya’s Chant and The Krishna Key. Ashwin was included by Forbes India in their Celebrity 100 list. Educated at St. Xavier’s College, Mumbai, and Yale University, Ashwin lives in India with his wife and son.
Ashwin can be reached via his website: www.ashwinsanghi.com
Also by James Patterson
Private (with Maxine Paetro)
Private London (with Mark Pearson)
Private Games (with Mark Sullivan)
Private: No. 1 Suspect (with Maxine Paetro)
Private Berlin (with Mark Sullivan)
Private Down Under (with Michael White)
Private L.A. (with Mark Sullivan)
Private Vegas (with Maxine Paetro, to be published January 2015)
ALEX CROSS NOVELS
Along Came a Spider • Kiss the Girls • Jack and Jill • Cat and Mouse • Pop Goes the Weasel • Roses are Red • Violets are Blue • Four Blind Mice • The Big Bad Wolf • London Bridges • Mary, Mary • Cross • Double Cross • Cross Country • Alex Cross’s Trial (with Richard DiLallo) • I, Alex Cross • Cross Fire • Kill Alex Cross • Merry Christmas, Alex Cross • Alex Cross, Run • Cross My Heart • Hope to Die (to be published November 2014)
THE WOMEN’S MURDER CLUB SERIES
1st to Die • 2nd Chance (with Andrew Gross) • 3rd Degree (with Andrew Gross) • 4th of July (with Maxine Paetro) • The 5th Horseman (with Maxine Paetro) • The 6th Target (with Maxine Paetro) • 7th Heaven (with Maxine Paetro) • 8th Confession (with Maxine Paetro) • 9th Judgement (with Maxine Paetro) • 10th Anniversary (with Maxine Paetro) • 11th Hour (with Maxine Paetro) • 12th of Never (with Maxine Paetro) • Unlucky 13 (with Maxine Paetro)
DETECTIVE MICHAEL BENNETT SERIES
Step on a Crack (with Michael Ledwidge) • Run for Your Life (with Michael Ledwidge) • Worst Case (with Michael Ledwidge) • Tick Tock (with Michael Ledwidge) • I, Michael Bennett (with Michael Ledwidge) • Gone (with Michael Ledwidge) • Burn (with Michael Ledwidge, to be published September 2014)
NYPD RED SERIES
NYPD Red (with Marshall Karp) • NYPD Red 2 (with Marshall Karp)
Sail (with Howard Roughan) • Swimsuit (with Maxine Paetro) • Don’t Blink (with Howard Roughan) • Postcard Killers (with Liza Marklund) • Toys (with Neil McMahon) • Now You See Her (with Michael Ledwidge) • Kill Me If You Can (with Marshall Karp) • Guilty Wives (with David Ellis) • Zoo (with Michael Ledwidge) • Second Honeymoon (with Howard Roughan) • Mistress (with David Ellis) • Invisible (with David Ellis)
Torn Apart (with Hal and Cory Friedman) • The Murder of King Tut (with Martin Dugard)
Sundays at Tiffany’s (with Gabrielle Charbonnet) • The Christmas Wedding (with Richard DiLallo) • First Love (with Emily Raymond)
FAMILY OF PAGE-TURNERS
MIDDLE SCHOOL BOOKS
Middle School: The Worst Years of My Life (with Chris Tebbetts) • Middle School: Get Me Out of Here! (with Chris Tebbetts) • Middle School: My Brother Is a Big, Fat Liar (with Lisa Papademetriou) • Middle School: How I Survived Bullies, Broccoli, and Snake Hill (with Chris Tebbetts) • Middle School: Ultimate Showdown (with Julia Bergen) • Middle School: Save Rafe! (with Chris Tebbetts, to be published October 2014)
I FUNNY SERIES
I Funny (with Chris Grabenstein) • I Even Funnier (with Chris Grabenstein)
TREASURE HUNTERS SERIES
Treasure Hunters (with Chris Grabenstein) • Treasure Hunters: Danger Down the Nile (with Chris Grabenstein, to be published September 2014)
Homeroom Diaries (with Lisa Papademetriou)
MAXIMUM RIDE SERIES
The Angel Experiment • School’s Out Forever • Saving the World and Other Extreme Sports • The Final Warning • Max • Fang • Angel • Nevermore
Confessions of a Murder Suspect (with Maxine Paetro) • Confessions: The Private School Murders (with Maxine Paetro) • Confessions: The Paris Mysteries (with Maxine Paetro, to be published October 2014)
WITCH & WIZARD SERIES
Witch & Wizard (with Gabrielle Charbonnet) • The Gift (with Ned Rust) • The Fire (with Jill Dembowski) • The Kiss (with Jill Dembowski) • The Lost (with Emily Raymond, to be published November 2014)
DANIEL X SERIES
The Dangerous Days of Daniel X (with Michael Ledwidge) • Watch the Skies (with Ned Rust) • Demons and Druids (with Adam Sadler) • Game Over (with Ned Rust) • Armageddon (with Chris Grabenstein)
Daniel X: Alien Hunter (with Leopoldo Gout) • Maximum Ride: Manga Vols. 1–7 (with NaRae Lee)
For more information about James Patterson’s novels, visit www.jamespatterson.co.uk
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THEY EXPLODED DURING rush hour.
Pressure-cooker bombs hidden in the first-class carriages of commuter services running from Mumbai’s financial district to its suburbs. Survivors would speak of bodies flung from trains, carriage floors awash with blood, screams and screams and screams …
The first bomb had gone off at exactly 6:24 p.m. All seven exploded in the space of eleven minutes. Over two hundred dead, over seven hundred injured.
And even Mumbai, no stranger to terrorist action, was shocked by the ferocity of the attacks. A city of thirteen million people, home to Bollywood, temporarily paralyzed, its airports on lockdown, its transport networks frozen.
And amid the hunt to find those responsible, fresh battle lines were drawn.
FOURTEEN MINUTES PER room was all she had.
Whether it was tidy or left smeared with chocolate sauce, whipped cream, and telltale buttmarks on the recliner, fourteen minutes was what she had to clean each room. Start in the bathroom, change the towels, change the bed, clean the cups, dust and vacuum, and then on to the next room.
And though she would never have admitted it to her colleagues at the Marine Bay Plaza, Sunita Kadam took a pride in meeting (and especially beating) that fourteen-minute time limit. In fact, on her housekeeping cart was a stopwatch she carried for that very purpose. She picked it up as she arrived at room number 1121 and knocked smartly—maid’s knock, loud but gentle—then began the stopwatch.
Twenty seconds. No answer. With a deliberate jangle of master keys she let herself in.
Again no answer. Good. And what’s more, the room was tidy. Though an evening dress hung from a handle of the closet, the bed looked as if it hadn’t been slept in. Nets at the window billowed beneath a blast of air conditioning, giving the room a clean, aired feel. Six minutes to service this room, thought Sunita. Maybe seven.
Unless, of course, there was a nasty surprise in the bathroom.
From her cart she collected towels and toiletries and went there now, clicking on the light at the same time as she reached for the door handle and pushed.
She came up short. The door would only budge an inch or so. Something on the other side—probably a wet towel that had slipped off a rail—was preventing it from opening.
Inside, the fluorescents struggled, flickering as she pushed the door. With an exasperated sigh she gave it one last shove and there was a splintering sound. Something heavy fell to the floor on the other side and, finally, the lights came on—and Sunita Kadam saw what was inside.
On the tiles lay a woman’s corpse. She wore a white nightshirt and her face was colorless. In contrast, the yellow cotton scarf around her neck was a bright yellow. The marks it had made were a livid red.
Sunita stared at the body. A numbness crept over her. A sense of wanting to run but being rooted to the spot. Later she’d look back and stifle a guilty laugh about this, but her next thought was: How the hell am I going to clean this up in fourteen minutes?
“YOU KILLED THEM, you drunk bastard.”
With a gasp, Santosh Wagh pulled himself from the grip of his nightmare, fingers scrabbling for his spectacles on the nightstand. He pushed them on, squinted at the numbers on his bedside clock and groaned.
4:14 a.m. Drinker’s dawn.
He pulled himself from bed, avoiding his own reflection in the mirror as he lolloped out of the bedroom. Who wanted to see a hungover man at 4:14 in the morning, a craggy, 51-year-old vision of guilt and shame? Not him. Right now what he wanted was a little something to guide him gently into the morning. Something to chase away the headache lurking behind his eyes. Something to banish the residual nightmare image seared into his brain.
His apartment was empty, stale-smelling. On a coffee table in the front room was a half-empty bottle of Johnnie Walker, a glass, and his Glock in its holster. Santosh dropped with a sigh to the couch, leaned forward, fingertipped his Glock out of reach, then drew the bottle and glass toward him.
He stared at the drink in his hand, remembering, casting his mind back to 2006 and the seven Mumbai train bombs. At the time he’d been an agent with RAW, India’s intelligence agency, and the investigations into the bombings had brought him into contact with Jack Morgan.
Two years later, the car accident that plagued his dreams.
It was Jack who had asked him to head up Private India; Jack who had picked him up when he’d needed it most. And if he drank this drink then it would lead to another drink, and another, and with each subsequent drink he’d fall a little harder and fail Jack a little more.
He placed the glass back on the coffee table, pulled his knees up toward him. Decided to wait the morning out. He dozed, then woke, then dozed again, and each time he woke the drink was still there, waiting for him. He ignored its call. He chose Jack over Johnnie.
Even so, it was a relief when the phone rang and duty called.
SANTOSH LEANED ON his cane and scrutinized the dead woman who lay on the bathroom floor of room number 1121.
“Name?” he said, without taking his eyes off the corpse.
Nisha Gandhe, mid forties, head-turningly attractive, even dressed down in cotton shirt, T-shirt, and jeans, marveled that her boss could be an investigative genius and still not know that breath mints were useless at disguising the smell of whisky.
“Dr. Kanya Jaiyen,” she replied, reading from notes made on her phone. “Mean anything to you?”
“No,” he said. He angled his head to study the face of the deceased. She was South-East Asian, middle-aged. Her sharp, attractive features looked incongruous pressed to the hard tiles of the bathroom.
“She’s Thai—from Bangkok appare
Santosh glanced at the damaged door then back at the body. He scratched salt-and-pepper stubble on his cheek.
“No signs of sexual assault,” he said, part question, part statement.
“Apparently not, but Mubeen is on his way. We should have a clearer idea once he’s through,” replied Nisha.
Mubeen was Private India’s full-time medical examiner. Time of death, cause of death, manner of death—death was his specialty. He’d arrive with Hari, Private’s technology geek, who’d be dusting for prints, scanning the cell phone that Santosh had spotted by the bed. Tech-wizard stuff.
Santosh shifted his weight on his cane. The car accident had left him with a limp.
“You do realize it’s psychosomatic, don’t you?” a doctor had told him.
“I’m keeping the cane,” he’d replied.
“Have it your own way.”
He did. One of the few advantages of being Santosh Wagh was that he had things his own way. Plus it was useful to have a cane sometimes. On a morning like this, for example, when he felt as though it was the only thing keeping him upright.
He palmed sweat from his forehead. “Okay, let’s not touch anything until we get the go-ahead from the police. There’s nothing to prevent us from observing though. And I’m especially interested in this …”
With the tip of his cane he indicated the victim’s hands, both wrapped with string. A flower was bound to one, an ordinary fork to the other.
“And this,” he said, motioning his cane at her foot. “What do you make of that?”
Tied to one of the dead doctor’s toes was a small toy Viking helmet.
Nisha bent down to take a closer look. “Could the killer be a nut job with a Viking fetish?” she asked.
“Maybe. But if he was a genuine Viking enthusiast he’d know that real Viking helmets didn’t have horns,” said Santosh. “The bull horns are an artistic contrivance.”
“Okay. So …?” said Nisha. You could almost see the cogs of his encyclopedic mind turn, she thought.
“So—either our killer doesn’t know about the horns. Or he doesn’t care. Or the Viking bit isn’t significant but the horn bit is.”