Private Royals: BookShots (A Private Thriller), страница 1
About the Book
About the Author
Also by James Patterson
About the Book
Jack Morgan is visiting Peter Knight and the team in the London branch of his investigation agency, Private.
At a cocktail party the night before the Trooping the Colour parade for the Queen’s 90th birthday, Jack receives a phone call from the Duke of Aldershot saying that his daughter, Abbie, has been kidnapped. He needs Private on the case – one word to the police and Abbie will be killed.
Jack will have to find Abbie before 11:00 a.m. the next morning, or the kidnapping will turn to murder.
About the Author
JAMES PATTERSON is one of the best-known and biggest-selling writers of all time. His books have sold in excess of 300 million copies worldwide and he has been the most borrowed author in UK libraries for the past nine years in a row. He is the author of some of the most popular series of the past two decades – the Alex Cross, Women’s Murder Club, Detective Michael Bennett and Private novels – and he has written many other number one bestsellers including romance novels and stand-alone thrillers.
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 for young readers including the Middle School, I Funny, Treasure Hunters, House of Robots, Confessions and Maximum Ride series. James is the proud sponsor of the World Book Day Award and has donated millions in grants to independent bookshops. He lives in Florida with his wife and son.
STORIES AT THE SPEED OF LIFE
What you are holding in your hands right now is no ordinary book, it’s a BookShot.
BookShots are page-turning stories by James Patterson and other writers that can be read in one sitting.
Each and every one is fast-paced, 100% story-driven; a shot of pure entertainment guaranteed to satisfy.
Available as new, compact paperbacks, ebooks and audio, everywhere books are sold.
BookShots – the ultimate form of storytelling. From the ultimate storyteller.
HE HATED HER.
He hated her high cheekbones. He hated her perfect smile. He hated the way her auburn hair cascaded over her shoulders like a Rocky Mountain waterfall. He hated her painted fingernails that had never known dirt. He hated her ill-deserved confidence, wealth and station. He hated her class and what it said about his country, but most of all, he hated her because she was throwing it all away.
It was enough hate to make him want to kill her.
But not yet. Maybe never, if the price was right. For now he would watch. He would weigh his decisions. He had to think, because the stuck-up bitch had given him one more reason to hate her.
She had changed her plans. Plans that he had studied. Plans that he’d assessed. Plans that he’d used as the blueprint for his own concept of operations.
No plan survived contact with the enemy, he knew that, and this pouting loudmouth was his enemy now. A lesser enemy than he had ever faced, but the stakes were higher. So much higher.
And the moment was drawing near.
He watched from behind the living room door, opened just a crack, as she chopped the cocaine into lines on a silver plate, using a metallic business card that she kept for the purpose, and snorted it through a cut-down drinking straw taken from the kitchen of her Chelsea apartment. This was no casual Friday evening, but the streamlined consumption of an addict.
And what of that stick-thin apparition beside her? The tabloids and gossip magazines called her an ‘It Girl’. To the watching man, she was a coked-up distraction – an enabler – and one that should have been on the other side of London.
Still, addicts were not known for their adherence to schedules, and the man had planned for distractions. In every crisis lay opportunity, and this ‘It Girl’ could prove either valuable or useful. When trying to make a point of your deadly intent, it never hurt to have an extra head that you could cut from its shoulders. The man smiled sickly as he pictured his blade against her pencil-thin neck. For a moment, he wondered if her red eyes were even capable of expressing fear, then snapped himself from his daydream.
Yes, the ‘It Girl’ would provide an opportunity, if only one for pleasure. But for now he cast his eyes back to his primary target, pleased to see that the ketamine he had cut into her coke was taking effect, the horse tranquilliser bringing the pair down from the rapid dialogue of their powdered high and leaving them slumped heavily on a ten-thousand-pound sofa that was stained with red wine.
It was time.
The man stood. He pushed open the door.
Her head turned slowly towards the movement. There was no hate or anger in her eyes, only drug-fuelled confusion, and he wondered if she could see the malice in his.
He put a finger to her plush lips. The beautiful girl nodded her understanding, as docile as a puppy as he pulled the knife from his pocket.
A moment later the blood began to pour.
AS A FORMER US Marine, an avid traveller, and now head of the world’s foremost investigation agency, Jack Morgan had set foot in some of the most grandiose buildings on the planet, and yet he was always taken aback by the majesty of London’s iconic architecture.
‘Do you know that Horse Guards Parade was first built in 1664?’ he asked the man beside him.
‘I didn’t,’ replied Peter Knight, the wiry Englishman who was the head of Private’s London office. ‘That’s over a hundred years older than your country, isn’t it?’ He smiled and prodded his friend and boss.
‘I’d give you a lesson in history now,’ Morgan replied, ‘but I’m a little outnumbered here.’
Knight laughed as he took in their surroundings. Dozens of British servicemen and women milled beneath the awnings erected at the edge of Horse Guards Parade, but it was champagne flutes that complemented their ceremonial uniforms, not rifles and bayonets.
‘Just don’t get nervous tomorrow when you see the redcoats.’ Knight grinned.
Both he and Morgan wore light summer suits, the June weekend shaping up to be hot and muggy. As a former serviceman himself, Morgan spared a thought for the soldiers who would be standing to attention for hours during the next day’s Trooping the Colour parade.
‘Glad it’s not going to be you on that parade square?’ Knight asked, reading his friend’s thoughts.
‘I’m happier taking in the view, and ha
Private had been among a raft of security providers who’d bid for the lucrative contracts to oversee the major events for the Queen’s ninetieth birthday celebrations. To Morgan’s displeasure, and Knight’s embarrassment, Private had not landed a single one.
‘It’s not on you, Peter,’ Morgan told his friend, seeing the slightest of slumps in the Englishman’s shoulders. ‘This is the old boys’ club, and the right school or regiment means more sometimes than service and price.’
Knight nodded his understanding. As a former special investigator to the Old Bailey, he had seen first-hand how Britain’s aristocratic class system could still hold sway.
‘That’s all well and good, Jack, but I don’t want people to get hurt because we didn’t know a secret handshake.’
‘Well, we’re here,’ Morgan declared brightly, ‘so let’s enjoy the champagne.’
‘Cheers,’ Knight offered as the men touched glasses.
‘Enjoying the drinks, gentlemen?’ they were asked in the nasal tone of the British gentry.
‘Colonel De Villiers,’ Morgan greeted the Coldstream Guards officer.
At six foot three, Colonel Marcus De Villiers, head of security for the royal family’s inner circle, made for an imposing man. He was also the reason why Private had no hand in the security for the Queen’s birthday events.
‘I’m surprised to see you here, Mr Morgan.’ The Colonel’s words were neutral, but his eyes betrayed his irritation.
‘We were invited,’ Knight answered for them.
Morgan smiled, imagining how the Colonel would be kicking himself inwardly for not having scrutinised the guest list more closely.
A proud man with little time for cocky Americans, De Villiers sneered as he looked at the men’s champagne flutes.
‘I imagine you made full use of the hospitality provided at the Olympic Games, also? Little wonder that Cronus and his Furies did such damage.’ The Colonel was referring to the bloodthirsty murderers who had run amok during the 2012 London Olympics, before finally being brought down by the two men who held their tongues, refusing to take the bait. ‘I suppose you did catch him at the closing ceremony, at least.’ De Villiers shrugged.
‘Peter did, yes, Colonel,’ Morgan replied. ‘He put his life at risk to save others.’ He eyed the thin row of medals on the Colonel’s chest and saw none that would signify combat. ‘As a military man, I’m sure you would understand all about courage and sacrifice.’
De Villiers was stung by the sarcasm. ‘Private investigators should stick to photographing unfaithful spouses, Mr Morgan. Good evening.’
The Colonel turned on his heel, and Knight couldn’t help but smirk. ‘Sounds like someone’s made use of that service,’ he said.
Morgan laughed and ran a hand through his hair to clear himself of the irritation De Villiers had caused him. As he did so, the American locked eyes with the most beautiful woman present amongst the crowd of cocktail dresses and uniforms.
And she came straight for him.
MORGAN WATCHED AS the beauty closed the space between them, never once breaking eye contact, confidence radiating from her in waves. Morgan made for a striking figure himself, and was no stranger to women finding him attractive, but even he was a little shocked by the brazen approach that had come from nothing but a look.
‘Jane Cook,’ the beautiful woman introduced herself, putting out her hand.
Morgan had seen a lot of stunning women in his time, but he didn’t know if he’d seen any so attractive when wearing the drab green uniform of the military, and with no make-up.
‘Jack Morgan.’ He smiled, taking her hand, and quickly ran his eyes over the insignia and decorations of her uniform – she was Major Jane Cook of the Royal Horse Artillery, a veteran of Afghanistan and Iraq, and recipient of an OBE.
‘I know who you are, Mr Morgan,’ she told him. ‘I invited you.’
‘Jane is a friend of mine,’ Knight announced. ‘I need to check in with the office. Back in a tick.’
‘That’s very nice of Peter,’ she smiled as Knight took his leave, ‘but I’d also like to think of myself as a candidate. I leave the service at the end of the year, Mr Morgan, and I’d like you to be my next employer.’
Realising that the attention towards him was due to business and not pleasure, Morgan almost laughed aloud at his own ego.
‘Peter will take care of you, Major, and we’ll see if you’re the right fit for Private. I’m afraid I’m only here to watch a show. My company has no stake in the celebrations.’
‘De Villiers,’ Cook said, casting an icy glance towards the man. ‘The closest he ever came to combat was an air-conditioned office in Bahrain. I’m sorry you were screwed by him on the contracts, Mr Morgan. I can tell you from personal experience that I know what an institutionalised old boys’ club the British security forces can be.’
‘Call me Jack. And it is what it is. Believe me, there are cliques and fraternities in the American hierarchy too.’
‘So what brings you here to London, if not work?’ she asked.
‘Heading back from Europe across the pond, so I wanted to see how my guys are getting along here. I’ve always wanted to see the Trooping the Colour parade, so when Peter told me that he had invitations, I could hardly refuse.’
‘Well, I’m glad you’ll get to experience something new here in London.’ Cook’s eyes gave the slightest suggestion that marching soldiers were not all the city had to offer. ‘Home is LA?’
‘The Palisades. It’s the bit between LA and Malibu.’
‘Malibu? Do you surf?’
‘It’s the second-best way I know to clear my head.’ Morgan smiled.
Cook fought a losing battle to stop herself from doing the same. ‘I surf. In Cornwall,’ she managed, on the edge of blushing.
Morgan said nothing. His own smile was gone.
Because Knight was on his way back in a hurry, and Morgan recognised the look on his friend’s face.
‘They need us at headquarters,’ Knight informed his boss. ‘Now.’
WITH MORGAN ON his shoulder, Knight pushed open the door to his office in Private London’s headquarters.
Neither of them were surprised to see the grey-haired gentleman inside.
He stood at the window, looking out over the city, his hands clasped behind a bespoke tailored suit. His outward appearance suggested calm and confidence, even when standing alone inside a stranger’s office. It was an appearance that would fool almost anybody.
But Jack Morgan and Peter Knight were not just anybody, and they could see the tension in the man’s posture and hear his exaggerated breathing.
They knew who he was, of course – no one could waltz into Private, let alone Knight’s office, without the say-so of someone in a position of authority. Knight had granted his because his workspace was sterile, all files deeply encoded on drives that were unobtainable unless the man at the window had been a master hacker.
And he was not. He was the ageing Duke of Aldershot, and a member of the royal family.
‘Sir,’ Knight said simply, and the man turned towards them.
On the journey from Horse Guards, a quick Internet search had revealed the Duke to be sixty years old. However, with his red eyes and pale skin, the royal looked closer to a hundred.
‘Please, sir, take a seat,’ Knight offered, worried that the man was moments from collapse. Without a word, the Duke complied.
Morgan hung back by the door as Knight poured the Duke a glass of water and pulled his own chair forward so that he was at arm’s length from him.
‘I can get tea or coffee if you like, sir?’ Knight asked. The Duke shook his head and the water remained untouched, trembling in his hands.
‘Your Grace,’ Knight began, p
The Duke’s haunted eyes showed the first signs of life.
‘Abbie,’ he mumbled.
‘Your daughter?’ Knight asked, recognising her name from his Internet search on the Duke. ‘Is she in trouble?’
The Duke nodded slowly, a pair of tears racing down his pale cheeks. ‘Yes,’ he gasped.
‘How do you know, sir?’ Morgan asked from the doorway.
The Duke’s eyes widened as he turned towards the American’s voice.
‘I will show you.’
CHANGED INTO HIS street clothing of jeans and a roll-sleeved shirt, Knight pulled the Range Rover to a stop at Chelsea Harbour, the Duke and a hoody-wearing Morgan emerging from its back seat. The ride had been quiet, the investigators wanting to hold their questions for the Duke until they had set eyes on what he assured them was the scene of a crime.
‘Nice place,’ Morgan said quietly to Knight, casting his eyes across the rows of moored boats. ‘He says hers is the centre penthouse.’ He pointed at a block of luxury apartments.
‘Wonder what the rent is on that,’ Knight said.
‘About seven million to buy.’
Knight was about to ask Morgan how he knew, but the confident smile of the handsome man told him the full story.
‘Leave some for the rest of us, will you?’ Knight grinned, turning to see a white transit van pull up behind the Range Rover.
‘The cavalry has arrived,’ the van’s driver announced from its window in an east London accent.
‘Good to see you, Hooligan.’ Morgan smiled, extending his hand to the man who was the guru when it came to all things forensic, scientific and technological at Private London.
‘Good to see you too, Jack.’
‘Your Grace, this is Jeremy Crawford,’ Knight introduced the scruffy man more formally.
‘Call me Hooligan, Duke’ he insisted. Red-haired and freckled, the self-confessed geek had earned the nickname for his love of all things West Ham, and wore the moniker as a badge of honour.