The Games (Private #11) - James Patterson

Chapter 1

Rio de Janeiro

Saturday, July 12, 2014

2:00 p.m.

CHRIST THE REDEEMER appeared and vanished in the last clouds clinging to jungle mountains that rose right up out of the city and the sea. Then the sun broke through for good and shone down on the giant white statue of Jesus that looked over virtually all of Rio from the summit of Corcovado Mountain.

In the prior two months, I’d seen the statue from dozens of vantage points, but never like this, from a police helicopter hovering at the figure’s eye level two hundred and fifty feet away, close enough for me to understand the immensity of the statue and its simple, graceful lines.

I am a lapsed Catholic, but I tell you, I got chills up and down my spine.

“That’s incredible,” I said as the helicopter arced away, flying over the steep, jungle-choked mountainside.

“One of the seven modern wonders of the world, Jack,” Tavia said.

“You know the other six offhand, Tavia?” I asked her.

Tavia smiled, shook her head, said, “You?”

“Not a clue.”

“You without a clue? I don’t believe it.”

“That’s because I’m unparalleled in the art of faking it.”

My name is Jack Morgan. I own Private, an international security and consulting firm with bureaus in major cities all over the world. Octavia “Tavia” Reynaldo, a tall, sturdy woman with jet-black hair, a lovely face, and beguiling eyes, ran Private Rio. And we’d always had this teasing chemistry between us.

The two of us stood in the open side door of the helicopter, harnessed and tethered to the ceiling of the hold. I hung on tight to a steel handle anyway. The pilot struck me as more than competent, but I couldn’t help feeling a little anxious as we picked up speed and headed southeast.

I used to be a helicopter pilot in the U.S. Marine Corps; I got shot down in Afghanistan and barely survived. A lot of good men died in that crash, and because of their deaths, I’m not a fan of helicopters despite the fact that they can do all sorts of things that a plane, a car, or a man on foot can’t. Let’s just say I tolerate them when the need arises, which it had that day.

Tavia and I were aboard the helicopter courtesy of Mateus da Silva, the only other person in the hold. A colonel with the Brazilian military police, da Silva was also head of all security for the FIFA World Cup and the man responsible for bringing Private in as a consultant.

The final game of the tournament—Germany versus Argentina for the soccer championship of the world—was less than a day away. So far there’d been little or no trouble at the World Cup, and we wanted to keep it that way. Which was why da Silva had asked for an aerial tour of the Marvelous City.

After two months in Rio, I agreed with the nickname. I’ve been lucky enough to travel all over the world, but there’s no place like Rio de Janeiro, and certainly no more dramatic an urban setting anywhere. The ocean, the beaches, the jungle, and the peaks appear new at every turn. That day a million hard-partying Argentine fans were said to be pouring over Brazil’s southern border, heading north to Rio.

“This will give us a sense of what Rio might look like during the Olympic Games,” da Silva said as we peered down at dozens of favelas, shantytown slums that spilled down the steep sides of almost every mountain in sight.

Below the favelas, on the flats, the buildings changed. Here, on the city’s south side where the wealthy and superrich of Rio lived,