Authors: James Patterson,Howard Roughan
Copyright © 2008 by James Patterson
All rights reserved. Except as permitted under the U.S. Copyright Act of 1976, no part of this publication may be reproduced, distributed, or transmitted in any form or by any means, or stored in a database or retrieval system, without the prior written permission of the publisher.
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First eBook Edition: June 2008
The characters and events in this book are fictitious. Any similarity to real-persons, living or dead, is coincidental and not intended by the author.
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For my sister, Shari—H.R.
For my sisters, Carole, Maryellen, and Terry—J.P.
DR. KATHERINE DUNNE
, forty-five, is a heart surgeon at Lexington Hospital in Manhattan. Four years ago she lost her husband, Stuart, in a scuba diving accident off their boat,
The Family Dunne.
As it turned out, Stuart was having an affair, and his mistress was there when he died. From that day on, Katherine’s relationship with her three children has never been the same. Things have only gotten worse since she remarried, bringing the lawyer Peter Carlyle into the family. But Peter is bright, funny, and compassionate, and he won Katherine’s heart.
, eighteen, is a freshman at Yale. That’s the good news. The bad news is that Carrie is bulimic and has suffered from bouts of depression. She has always accused Katherine of being more devoted to being a doctor than to her kids. Carrie’s best friend from New York recently told Katherine she was afraid that Carrie was capable of hurting herself.
, sixteen, is a sophomore at Deerfield Academy, where he’s well liked but also the resident stoner. Zero ambition, zero enthusiasm. “Why should I bust my ass like Dad when at any moment,
—the Grim Reaper comes and takes it all away from you.”
is ten—at least, that’s what his birth certificate says. But in this family, where it’s seemingly every Dunne for himself, he has grown up fast. And bewildered. “Mom, are you sure I’m not adopted?” Ernie asks Katherine at least once a day.
, forty-four, is Katherine’s former brother-in-law. A true nautical nomad, he dropped out of Dartmouth to sail the world. It was a path far different from that of his older brother, Stuart, who stayed ashore to chase, and catch, millions on Wall Street. But as different as the two brothers always were, Jake and Stuart Dunne did have one thing in common: they were both in love with Katherine.
Family Dunne Alive
EASING THROUGH the marina’s sapphire-blue water at a leisurely three-knot clip, Captain Stephen Preston took a long pull off his Marlboro Red, casually flicking the ash into the cool island breeze. Then, after waiting for just the perfect moment, he punched the horn of his forty-six-foot Bertram Sport Fisherman until everyone on the dock stopped to look.
Yeah, that’s right, boys and girls, take a gander at what Captain Steve reeled in!
It was a quarter past eleven in the morning. His charter, the
wasn’t due back to shore until that afternoon at two, the same time as always.
But today was different.
Fuckin’ A it’s different,
thought Captain Steve, hitting the horn another time. When you spear the biggest, baddest giant bluefin tuna ever seen around the Bahama Islands, you’re done fishing for the day. Hell, you might as well be done fishing for the year!
“What do you think she’s worth?” asked Jeffrey, the
’s first mate and Steve’s brother. He’d been with the boat for eleven years. Never took a sick day. And rarely ever smiled, before that morning anyway.
“I dunno,” replied Captain Steve, pulling on the rim of a Boston Red Sox cap. “I’d guess she’s worth somewhere between a boatload of money and a
Jeffrey continued to smile widely beneath the brim of the tattered green visor he always wore. He knew a tuna this size could fetch upwards of $20,000, cash money, maybe even more if the sushi bidders at the Tsukiji fish market in Tokyo liked what they saw. And why wouldn’t they?
Whatever the amount, he was in line to get a very healthy cut. The captain was good that way, a fair man in every sense.
“Are you sure those bozos signed the contract, Jeff?” Captain Steve asked.
Jeffrey glanced toward the stern at the six-man bachelor party from the island of Manhattan. They’d been drinking since sunrise, when the trip began, and were already so stinking drunk they could barely high-five each other without falling overboard.
“Yeah, they signed the contract, all right,” said Jeffrey with a slow nod. “Though I doubt they ever read the fine print.”
If they had read the contract carefully, they’d have known that no binge-drinking, sunburned tourists would ever pocket a dime off a giant bluefin tuna. No way, not on the
One hundred percent of the proceeds went directly to the captain and the crew. Period, end of Big Fish story.
“Well, then,” said Captain Steve, cutting the boat’s twin engines as they approached the dock, “let’s go cause a scene.”
SURE ENOUGH, even in the ultra-laid-back Bahamas it took less than a New York minute for a large and curious throng to gather around the fishing boat, the buzz swelling as a forklift carried the humongous tuna toward the marina’s official scale.
Christ, was that scale even big enough?
Captain Preston beamed, giving a hearty slap to the back of the groom-to-be and announcing that he’d never met a finer bunch of anglers in all his life. “You guys are the best,” he said. “And you proved it today.”
“Rather be good than lucky!” one guy shouted back.
Of course, the truth would stay strictly between him and Jeff. These big-city misfits had no clue what they were doing. They couldn’t catch a cold, let alone a fish.
Yet here they all were, basking in the relentless
click, click, click
of digital cameras—the crowd, the excitement, the anticipation of the weigh-in growing bigger by the second.
“Tie her up good!” urged Captain Steve as the tail of the tuna was wrapped with double-braided rope, the strongest on hand.
On the count of three, she was hoisted high into the air. The crowd oohed and aahed appreciatively. This was some fish.
Six hundred . . . seven hundred . . . eight hundred pounds!
The arm of the scale shot up like a rocket. When it finally settled at a record-busting 912 pounds, the entire marina let out a tremendous roar, the bachelor-party guys loudest of all.
And that’s when it happened.
Something very strange fell out of the tuna’s mouth.
THE MYSTERIOUS STOWAWAY landed on the dock and rolled right up to Captain Stephen Preston’s knee-high black rubber boots.
“What the hell is that?” someone asked from the back. “Let us in on the joke.”
But everyone else could see plain as day what it was. A Coke bottle. The old-fashioned kind, real glass.
“That’s some funny-lookin’ bait you used, Steve,” joked a captain from another boat.
The crowd laughed as Steve bent and scooped up the bottle. He held it up to the bright morning sun and immediately scratched his head of curly blond hair. There was something inside.
What the hell was it?
Quickly he removed the makeshift seal of a small plastic bag held tight by a knot made of vines. This was getting stranger by the minute. With two shakes he was able to reach the edge of the contents with his pinkie.
He pulled it out.
It wasn’t paper—more like some kind of fabric. And there was writing on it.
“What’s it say?” asked Jeffrey.
The entire dock was silent as Steve Preston read the note to himself. The words were written in a deep crimson color, smudged but still legible.
Could that be blood?
he was wondering now.
And whose blood is it?
“C’mon, what’s it say?” asked Jeffrey again. “You’re killin’ us with suspense.”
Captain Steve slowly turned the note so that those around him could see for themselves. The collective gasp that followed was instantaneous.
“That family—they’re alive!” he managed. “The Dunne family.”
In a flash, a vacationing reporter from the
reached for his cell phone to call his newsroom. He was back on the job.
Meanwhile, Captain Stephen Preston just stood before the crowd and smiled. All he could think about was how the note in the bottle ended, the part about the reward.
The dollar sign.
The number one.
And all those amazingly beautiful zeroes after it.
“Jeff,” he said slowly, “this tuna’s worth a hell of a lot more than we thought.”