Private Sydney by James Patterson & Kathryn Fox
Read an exclusive sneak peek of Kathryn’s upcoming thriller PRIVATE SYDNEY before it hits stores in August. Kathryn teams up with the world’s bestselling thriller writer James Patterson for the latest action-packed instalment of the PRIVATE series.
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Chapter 1 Private Sydney
BRANCHES FROM THE eucalypts and blue gums cracked as they whipped the electrically charged air.
A storm from the east would hit soon and cover his tracks through the dense bushland. The cabin was isolated and close to a river, with a 270-degree vantage of the valley below, but that was in daylight.
Every sense on heightened alert, he scanned the door frame with his night-vision goggles for the two strands of hair he’d positioned in the jamb days before. Locating both, he exhaled as the door eased open.
The urn over the fireplace was exactly as he’d left it too, the tiny notches in the wood lined up precisely with its rim. He checked his watch. Ninety seconds.
He unscrewed the base of the urn and located the USB device, which he secured inside his zippered jacket pocket.
His watch buzzed with a slow pulse. Someone had infiltrated his perimeter. With no road access from the north, they had to be on foot.
The pulsing sound doubled. Now two people headed towards the cabin. Cleaners. Men whose job it was to clean up mess and make sure nothing was left behind.
It confirmed he was a priority. If they had come here, a hell of a lot of manpower was being invested in hunting him down.
He snatched his backpack and headed for the bedroom. Sliding back a rug at the foot of the bed exposed the trap door.
With the alarm pulsing on his wrist, he grabbed a bowie knife from his pack and dug it into the narrow space between the hatch and floor, dislodging caked dirt.
Summoning all his strength, he grunted and yanked. The hatch gave way. He squeezed through and lowered himself feet first. With a hook and wire he’d screwed into the cavity years before, he reached up, replaced the handle in its recess and repositioned the rug before lowering the hatch.
Sweat dripped from his forehead. He checked his watch again and listened.
No other sensors had been tripped. Instinct told him there were still just two men out there.
On his elbows and stomach, the fit was tight, but at least he could propel backwards. After a few metres he removed a rope and screw-top tin from his pack. He unwound the line of rope before topping it with a thin layer of magnesium powder.
Fifteen more metres back and his boots should reach the removable panels at the rear of the wood shed.
The sound of feet clomping inside the cabin was suddenly paralysing. There were two male voices, then glass smashed.
He lit the rope and reverse commando-crawled as fast as his elbows, toes and knees could manage.
Flame ripped along the tunnel to the base of the cabin. As he kicked out the shed boards and escaped the tunnel, yelling pierced the night.
By the time they’d dealt with the flaring caused by the water, he’d be long gone.
Goggles fixed and backpack secure, he jogged along one of the paths he’d previously mapped out, careful to stay close to the gully on his left.
Fifty metres along, one of his motion detectors was attached to the base of a tree. It had already saved his life and could come in handy next time.
As he bent down and unstrapped the cord, something brushed his right wrist. Instinctively, he slapped it hard with his other gloved hand before pocketing the device and running on.
Within minutes, pain tore through his wrist, like a nail had been hammered into it.
He could hear voices in the distance.
Sweat poured from his face as the burning in his wrist intensified. Nausea rose in his gullet but he had to keep moving. He was light-headed.
Wind howled as the storm moved in. The sooner it came, the less likely they’d fi nd him before daylight. He headed off again and stumbled on a rock formation. Reeling back, he staggered, unable to maintain his footing. He reached for something to grab. Anything.
Agonising pain shot through his side as he hit the rocks below. The world went black.
THE EARLY MORNING temperature was crisp as I stretched aching muscles. Even a punishing run couldn’t lessen the grief that today brought. I watched the flaming sun rising above the north and south heads, as a mammoth cruise ship glided into Sydney Harbour. It took me back to my honeymoon when Becky and I sailed home from Noumea.
The spectacle of passing through those heads as the sun lit the city was one of our most treasured memories. It was the moment she told me she wanted to be known as Mrs Craig Gisto.
It had been eight years now, and a song, a smell, even a sound, could still trigger a volcanic release of pain from my core.
If Cal had lived, he would be eleven today.
The car accident that took their lives trapped Cal as an eternal three-year-old and me as a widower. I wondered why there was a word for children who lost parents, but not one for parents who had suffered the greatest loss of all.
After a quick shower and breakfast, I was comfortably heading to the city in my Ferrari Spider. On Military Road, I stopped at the traffic lights, just before the turn-off to Taronga Zoo. Cal’s favourite place.
Memories of him hanging off a gorilla statue were interrupted by a call. Jack Morgan. It had to be late morning on the west coast.
‘Hi, Jack, what can I do for you?’
The LA-based owner of Private spoke quickly. ‘Craig, I’m on a helicopter so we may lose connection. I’m asking for a favour. Eric Moss is the CEO of a company named Contigo Valley.’ The background noise made it difficult to hear.
‘You’re fading,’ I said into the hands-free microphone.
He shouted over the din. ‘He and his daughter are old friends. Moss was at the top of his field and disappeared two days ago. Emailed a resignation with no explanation.’
‘Do you suspect foul play?’
Jack gave directions to the pilot then returned. ‘This is a billion-dollar company with international contracts. It needs Moss.’
I knew some of the work the company did with safety and medical equipment. So the CEO resigned on Friday and hadn’t been heard of over the weekend. He could have been drinking away his sorrows or celebrating with a young fling.
I braked as a BMW cut into my lane on the approach to the Harbour Bridge.
‘Is the daughter high-profile?’
Most of Private’s clients were either famous, wealthy, or both, and wanted scandals kept out of the tabloids.
‘She’s special, Jack. I’m asking you to do this for her. Her name’s Eliza Moss. She owns Shine Management.’
The phone crackled again.
‘I’ve been a big supporter of Eric Moss,’ Jack continued. ‘Trust me, this isn’t like him. Eliza and the company are his life. He wouldn’t walk away without a fight. And he’d never do this to his only child.’
I wondered what sort of daughter panicked when her father didn’t contact her over the weekend. But if Jack thought it worth looking into, I’d do it, despite this week’s heavy workload.
‘Thanks, Craig,’ he finished. ‘Let me know if I can help in any way.’
When the line went silent, I replayed the conversation in my mind. Jack mentioned Eliza was special to him. I wondered how special.
After pulling into the car park just after seven am, I took the stairs to street level.
First thing I saw was shattered glass.
The ground-to-ceiling door to Private had been smashed.