Don't Blink


By James Patterson

By Howard Roughan

Read by David Patrick Kelly

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New York’s Lombardo’s Steak House is famous for three reasons–the menu, the clientele, and now, the gruesome murder of an infamous mob lawyer. Effortlessly, the assassin slips through the police’s fingers, and his absence sparks a blaze of accusations about who ordered the hit.

Seated at a nearby table, reporter Nick Daniels is conducting a once-in-a-lifetime interview with a legendary baseball bad-boy. Shocked and shaken, he doesn’t realize that he’s accidentally captured a key piece of evidence. Ensnared in the city’s most sensational crime in years, Nick investigates for a story of his own. Back off–or die–is the clear message as he closes in on the facts. Heedless, and perhaps in love, Nick endures humiliation, threats, violence, and worse in a thriller that overturns every expectation and finishes with the kind of flourish only James Patterson knows.


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Table of Contents

A Preview of The Christmas Wedding

A Preview of The Fire

Copyright Page




LOMBARDO'S STEAKHOUSE ON Manhattan's tony Upper East Side was justly famous for two things, two specialties of the house. The first was its double-thick, artery-clogging forty-six-ounce porterhouse, the mere sight of which could give a vegan an apoplectic seizure.

The second claim to fame was its clientele.

Simply put, Lombardo's Steakhouse was paparazzi heaven. From A-list actors to all-star pro athletes, CEOs to supermodels, rap stars to poet laureates—anyone who was anyone could be spotted at Lombardo's, whether they were brokering deals or just looking and acting fabulous.

Zagat, the ubiquitous red bible of dining guides, said it best: "Get ready to rub elbows and egos with the jet set, because Lombardo's is definitely the place to see and be seen."

Unless you were Bruno Torenzi, that is.

He was the man who was about to make Lombardo's Steakhouse renowned for something else. Something terrible, just unbelievably awful.

And no one seemed to notice him… until it was too late… until the deed was almost done.

Of course, that was the idea, wasn't it? In his black three-button Ermenegildo Zegna suit and dark-tinted sunglasses, Bruno Torenzi could have been anybody. He could have been everybody.

Besides, it was lunch. Broad daylight, for Christ's sake.

For something this sick and depraved to go down, you would have at least thought nighttime. Hell, make that a full moon with a chorus of howling wolves.

"Can I help you, sir?" inquired the hostess, Tiffany, the one person who did manage to notice Torenzi if only because it was her job. She was a young and stunning blonde from the Midwest, with perfect porcelain skin, who could turn more heads than a chiropractor.

But it was as if she didn't even exist.

Torenzi didn't stop, didn't even glance her way when she spoke to him. He just waltzed right by her, cool as a cabana.

Screw it, thought the busy hostess, letting him go. The restaurant was packed as always, and he certainly looked like he belonged. There were other customers arriving, getting in her face as only New Yorkers can. Surely this guy was meeting up with someone who was already seated.

She was right about that much.

Table chatter, clanking silverware, the iconic jazz of John Coltrane filtering down from the recessed ceiling speakers—they all combined to fill the mahogany-paneled dining room of Lombardo's with a continuous loop of the most pleasant sort of white noise.

Torenzi heard none of it.

He'd been hired because of his discipline, his unyielding focus. In his mind there was only one other person in the busy restaurant. Just one.

Thirty feet

Torenzi had spotted the table in the far right corner. A special table, no doubt about that. For a very special customer.

Twenty feet

He cut sharply over to another aisle, the heels of his black wingtips clicking against the polished wood floor like a metronome in three-quarter time.

Ten feet

Torenzi leveled his stare on the bald and unabashedly overweight man seated alone with his back to the wall. The picture he'd been handed could stay tucked in his pocket. There was no need to double-check the image.

This was him, for sure. Vincent Marcozza.

The man who had less than a minute to live.


VINCENT MARCOZZA—WEIGHING in at three hundred pounds plus—glanced up from what remained of his blood-rare porterhouse steak, stuffed baked potato, and gaudy portion of onion strings. Even sitting still the guy looked woefully out of breath and very close to a coronary.

"Can I help you?" asked Marcozza, seemingly polite. His raised-on-the-streets-of-Brooklyn tone, however, suggested otherwise. It was more like, Hey, pal, what the hell are you staring at? I'm eating here.

Torenzi stood motionless, measuring the important man. He took his sweet time answering. Finally, in a thick Italian accent he announced, "I have a message from Eddie."

This amused Marcozza for some reason. His pasty complexion spiked red as he laughed, his neck fat jiggling like a Jell-O mold. "A message from Eddie, huh? Hell, I should've known. You look like one of Eddie's guys."

He lifted the napkin from his lap, wiping the oily cow juice from the corners of his mouth. "So what is it, boy? Spit it out."

Torenzi glanced to his left and right as if to point out how close the nearby tables were. They were too close. Capisce?

Marcozza nodded. Then he motioned his uninvited lunch visitor forward. "For my ears only, huh?" he said before breaking into another neck-jiggling laugh. "This oughta be good. It's a joke, right? Let's hear it."

Over by the far wall a waiter stood on tiptoe on a chair, erasing the Chilean sea bass special from a large chalkboard. Hustling by him, a busboy and his gray bucket carried the remains of a table for four. And at the bar, a waitress loaded up her tray with a glass of pinot noir, a vodka tonic, and two dry martinis with almond-stuffed olives.

Torenzi stepped slowly to Marcozza's side. Placing his left hand firmly on the table, he unclenched his right fist, which was tucked neatly behind his back. The cold steel handle of a scalpel fell promptly and rather gracefully from his sleeve.

Then, leaning in, Torenzi whispered three words, and only three. "Justice is blind."

Marcozza squinted. Then he frowned. He was about to ask what the hell that was supposed to mean.

But he never got the chance.


IN A HELLISH BLUR, Bruno Torenzi whipped his arm around, plunging the scalpel deep into the puffy fold above Marcozza's left eye. With a good butcher's precision and hard speed, he cut clockwise around the orbital socket. Three, six, nine, midnight… The blade moved so fast, the blood didn't have time to bleed.

"ARRRGH!" was a pretty good approximation of the sound Marcozza made.

He screamed in agony as the entire restaurant turned. Now everyone noticed Bruno Torenzi. He was the one carving the eye out of that fat man's face—like a pumpkin!


Torenzi was outweighed by over a hundred pounds but it didn't matter. He'd positioned himself perfectly, his rigid choke hold keeping Marcozza's head dead still while the rest of his body violently jerked and thrashed. What was premeditated murder if not calculated leverage?


Scooped out like a melon ball, Marcozza's left eye fell to the white linen tablecloth and rolled to a stop.

Next came the right eye. Slice, slice, slice… Beautiful handiwork, to be sure.

But the right eye didn't pop out like the left one. Instead, it dangled, held by the stubborn red vessel of the optic nerve.

Torenzi smiled and flicked his wrist. He was almost finished here, so hold the applause.


Marcozza's right eye, with a gooey tail of flesh and vein, careened off the bread plate and fell to the floor.

Blood, finally catching up to the moment, now gushed from Marcozza's empty eye sockets. In medical terms, his ophthalmic artery had been severed from his internal carotid artery, the high-pressure main line to the brain. In layman's terms, it was just a god-awful, horrifying, and disgusting mess.

A few tables away, a woman wearing everything Chanel fainted, passing out cold, while another threw up all over her tiramisu.

As for Torenzi, he simply tucked the scalpel into the breast pocket of his Zegna suit before heading toward the kitchen to exit through the back door—back into broad daylight.

But before he did, he leaned down again to repeat his message into Marcozza's chubby ear as he lay hunched over the table dying a slow, mean death.

"Justice is blind."

Part One


Chapter 1

THE WORDS I will never be able to forget were "Hold on tight, because this is going to be one hairy ride." In point of fact, those words not only described the next several minutes, but the next several days of my life.

I had been lying fast asleep under nothing but the high, bright stars of an African night sky with only a frayed, moth-eaten mat separating me from some of the poorest dirt on the planet when suddenly my eyes popped open and my heart immediately skipped a beat. Make that a couple of beats.

Holy shit! Is that what I think it is?


The answer to my question came the very next second as Dr. Alan Cole raced over to me in the darkness and grabbed my arm, shaking me hard. We'd been sleeping outside because our pup tents were like saunas.

"Wake up, Nick. Get up! Now!" he said. "We're being attacked. I'm serious, man."

I shot straight up and turned to him as the sound of more gunfire echoed in the air. Pop! Pop! Pop!

It was getting closer. Whoever was shooting—they were getting closer. And moving quickly.

"Janjaweed—that's who it is, right?" I asked.

"Yeah," said Alan. "I was afraid this could happen. Word got around that we're here."

"So what do we do now?"

"Follow me," he said with a wave of his flashlight. "Quickly, Nick. Keep moving."

I grabbed my pillow—otherwise known as my knapsack. From the corner of my eye I spotted one of my notepads over by the stack of crates that had been functioning as my desk. I took one step toward it when Alan grabbed my arm again, this time to hold me back.

"There's no time, Nick. We've got to get the hell out of here," he warned. "Otherwise, we're both dead. And that's after they torture us."

Well, when you put it like that

Lickety-split, I fell in line behind Alan as we raced past the few shanties of plywood and corrugated metal that were used as operating rooms at this makeshift hospital on the outskirts of the Zalingei district of Sudan. It dawned on me how in control the doctor seemed, even now. He wasn't screaming or shouting.

Meanwhile, that's all I wanted to do.

For crying out loud, Nick, what's with you and the death wish? Did you really have to take this assignment? You knew this part of Darfur was still too dangerous for journalists! Even Courtney said so when she offered you the assignment.

But that was the whole point of the article I was writing—the reason I knew I had to be here and see it with my own eyes. This part of Darfur was still too dangerous for doctors as well. Obviously. But that didn't stop Dr. Alan Cole from coming here, did it? No. The acclaimed thoracic surgeon had left his wife and two beautiful kids back in Maryland to be here for four months with the Humanitarian Relief Corps to save the lives of Sudanese civilians who would otherwise suffer and die without medical care.

Now I was relying on Alan Cole to save my life, too.

Pop! Pop-pop-pop-pop! Pop-pop-pop-pop!

I kept running behind him and the hazy glow of his flashlight, ignoring the sting against my bare feet as I stepped on the sharp rocks and spiny twigs that littered the ground.

Up ahead I could see some movement: the two female Sudanese nurses who worked full-time in the hospital. One was starting up a rickety old Jeep that Alan had pointed out to me when I'd first arrived days earlier.

He'd called it the "getaway car." I thought he was joking.

Ha! Ha! Ha! Think again, Nick.

"Get in!" Alan told me as we reached the Jeep. The nurse in the driver's seat jumped out to let him take over the wheel.

As I practically hurled myself into the shotgun seat I waited for the two nurses to climb in the back. They didn't.

Instead they both whispered the same thing to us. "Salaam alaikum."

I'd already learned what that meant. Peace be with you. But I was confused. "Aren't they coming with us?" I asked Alan.

"No," he said, jerking the creaky gearshift out of park. "The Janjaweed don't want them. They want us. Americans. Foreigners. We're interfering here."

With that, he quickly thanked the nurses, telling the two he hoped to see them soon. "Wa alaikum salaam," he added. And peace upon you.

Then Alan hit the gas like a sledgehammer, plastering me against the back of my seat.

"Hold on tight," he told me over the rattle and roar of the engine, "because this is going to be one hairy ride."

Chapter 2

A BLAST OF the hot desert air nearly burned my face as we hit the road, or at least what passed for the road in this godforsaken part of the world. There was no pavement, only a beaten track of dirt that was now flying off our tires as we fishtailed back and forth with Alan doing his damnedest to avoid the occasional citrus tree that had managed to survive the wretched heat and droughtlike conditions here.

Did I mention we had our headlights off? Welcome to the Ray Charles Grand Prix.

"How we doing?" Alan shouted at the top of his voice. "Do they see us? Can you see them?"

He and I were a mere foot apart from each other, but we still had to shout to be heard. I swear, a fighter jet breaking the sound barrier was quieter than this Jeep's engine.

"See us? How can they not hear us?" I shouted back. "I don't see anybody yet."

I'd done a good bit of homework on the Janjaweed before arriving from the States. They were the proxy militia of the Arab Muslims in Khartoum, the Sudanese capital, and had long been fighting and killing the African Muslims in the countryside over, among other things, land allocation. The bloodshed had been relentless and mainly one-sided. Hence, the genocide we keep hearing about.

But reading articles and a few books on the Janjaweed from the comfort of my couch in Manhattan was one thing. This was entirely another affair.

I turned to look over my shoulder, the cloud of dirt and dust flying in our wake making it hard to see anything. That's when I felt the air split open around me as a bullet whizzed by my ear. Jesus Christ, that was close.

"Faster, Alan!" I said. "We've got to go faster! You can go faster, can't you?"

Alan gave me a quick nod, his eyes squinting as he struggled to see through the darkness and flying dirt.

As for me, I contemplated my premature death at thirty-three by counting the unchecked boxes on my life's to-do list. Winning a Pulitzer. Learning how to play the saxophone. Driving an Enzo Ferrari along the Pacific Coast Highway.

Oh yeah, and finally having the balls to tell a certain woman back home that I loved her more than I had previously cared to admit—even to myself.

What could I say that one of my half-dozen favorite authors, John Steinbeck, hadn't already figured out? Something about the best-laid plans of mice and men often going awry?

But hold on!

Speaking of plans, the doctor at the wheel apparently had one of his own. "We need something heavy!" declared Alan.

Heavy? "Like what?" I asked him.

"I don't know. Check in the back—the cargo area," he said, handing me his flashlight. "And stay low! I don't want losing you on my conscience."

"No, I don't want that either, Alan!"

Like an added exclamation point, a bullet ricocheted off the metal roll bar. Ping!

"Make that real low!" Alan added.

I grabbed the thick rubber handle of the flashlight, quickly snaking my way into the cramped quarters of the backseat. Peering into the cargo area I spotted nothing but a few empty water bottles bouncing around like jumping beans.

I was about to tell Alan the bad news when I caught the reflection of something shiny strapped to the side, near the spare tire. It was a lug wrench. Yes!

But was it heavy enough? I had no idea, since I didn't know what it was needed for.

I handed it up to Alan, who gave it a shake as if weighing it in his hands. "Good enough," he said. Then he flipped on the Jeep's headlights. "Now hold the wheel steady for me, all right? Very steady, Nick!"

I climbed back into the shotgun seat, reaching over for the steering wheel as Alan lifted his left foot and yanked off his running shoe. I could just make out the swoosh of the Nike label.

"I'll be right back," he said.

Right back? Where the hell are you going, doc?

What are you doing now?

Don't leave me, buddy.

Chapter 3

ALAN DOVE BENEATH the steering wheel, the lug wrench held like a baton in one hand, his running shoe in the other.

I tried to see what he was doing. Of course, what I should've been doing was paying attention to what he asked me to do—hold the wheel steady.

Oh, shit! Look out! Look out!

The Jeep suddenly swerved, the two left tires leaping a foot off the ground and nearly flipping us over. I could hear Alan's head slam against the driver's-side door as I struggled to straighten the wheel. Ouch!

"Sorry, Alan!" I shouted. "You okay?"

"Yeah, but throw me some light down here. I dropped the damn wrench."

"Sorry, man."

"No, you're doing fine. Just hold that steering wheel steady!"

I flipped the flashlight back on for him. The wrench had fallen behind the brake pedal. With his right foot still on the gas, Alan scooped up the tool and shoved it into his shoe. I still had no idea what he was doing.

Then it hit me.

Alan was weighing down the gas pedal, wasn't he?

Sure enough, as I traded glances between him and the road, I saw Alan replace his foot with his weighted-down shoe. Using the laces like stitches, he looped them around the pedal, quickly tying them tight as he could under the circumstances.

Just as fast he came back up and yanked the belt from his pants, securing the steering wheel to a steel rod beneath his seat.

We were officially on cruise control.

Now what?

Only I didn't really need to ask that question and get an answer. I just didn't want to believe what was happening.

"Are you ready?" Alan asked. "You better be. We're out of here!"

"You're kidding me!"

"No, I'm dead serious. You see that boulder up ahead on the right? There's an embankment right after it," he said.

"How do you know that?"

"I was a Boy Scout, Nick. Always prepared. All we have to do is tuck and roll and they'll never see us! Trust me."

I aimed the flashlight at the speedometer. We were pushing the needle at eighty miles an hour. What's that, doc? Tuck and roll?

But there was no time to discuss or argue; that boulder and the embankment were a few seconds away. With another bullet whizzing by us, I took a deep breath and told Alan all he needed to hear.

"Fuckin' A, let's do it!"

I grabbed my knapsack and turned to grab the roll bar. Ping! went another bullet. And another: Ping! And then dozens of pops and pings.

Gnashing my teeth to build my nerve, I could taste the swirling dirt deep in my mouth. In my four years at Northwestern as a journalism major, not once did I take a class called Tuck and Roll. Wish I had. Would have been much more useful than some of the things I learned about grammar and ethics.


I jumped into the darkness, then slammed into the soil. Only it didn't feel like soil. It felt like concrete, the pain shooting through my body like an exploding bomb.

I wanted to scream. Don't scream, Nick! They'll hear you!

So much for my tucking skills. As for the rolling, I immediately had that down pat—as in, down and down and down the embankment. When I finally stopped, dizzy to the point of vomiting, I turned and looked up.

Continuing in hot pursuit of our Jeep was another Jeep of trigger-happy Janjaweed, surely thinking that they were closer than ever to killing a couple of troublemaking Americans. They'd catch on soon enough—maybe another mile or two—but by then Alan and I would be like two needles in a haystack in the dead of night. They'd never find us. At least I hoped that was the case.

"You okay?" came Alan's voice. He was maybe ten feet away from me.

"Yeah," I said. "You?"

"Never better, man."

I saw a familiar glow coming from Alan's hand. It was an iridium satellite phone. I had the same one somewhere on me.

"Who are you calling?" I asked.

"Domino's Pizza," he joked. "You like pepperoni?"

I laughed. Never did a laugh feel so good.

"No, I'm calling for backup," he said. "It's time you and I got the hell out of Dodge. A dead surgeon and reporter won't do much for world peace and all that good stuff we care so much about, huh, Nick?"

Chapter 4

BRUISED, BATTERED, BANGED UP—but most important, alive—Alan and I were airlifted at daybreak by a UN World Food Programme plane to Khartoum. The good doctor decided he'd stay a few more days there in the Sudanese capital to help out at another hospital. What a guy—and I sincerely mean that.

"You're welcome to come with me," he offered, half joking. "I need a muse."

I smiled. "Nah, I think I've had enough wilderness adventure for a while. I think I have more than enough good material to write my article, Alan."

"Don't make me out as a hero," he warned. "I'm not."

"I just write what I see, Alan. If that sounds heroic to some people, so be it."

With that, I thanked him for the twentieth time for saving my life. "Salaam alaikum," I added.

He shook my hand. "And peace upon you," he replied.

Too bad that wouldn't be the case, though. Nosiree.

By that afternoon, I was on a four-hour flight over the Red Sea and Persian Gulf to the United Arab Emirates and the city of Dubai, home of the world's first cloned camel. The place is surreal, if you've never been. If you have, you know what I'm talking about. A few years back, I spent a week there visiting all its "tourist attractions" for a piece I called "Disneyland on Drugs." Needless to say, the Dubai tourism board wasn't too keen on the title, but what did they expect? Their take on Space Mountain is an actual indoor ski mountain, Ski Dubai. Then there's the man-made archipelago of three hundred islands created in the shape of a world map stretching thirty-five miles wide. It's a small world after all, indeed.

But I was only passing through this time. In fact, after a quick nap at the adjacent Dubai International Hotel—by far the cleanest place you'll ever stay that charges by the hour—I was back on a plane en route to Paris to interview one of the European directors of the Humanitarian Relief Corps, my final bit of research for the article I was writing.

At least, I thought I was on my way to Paris.

While I was literally on line to board the flight, I felt the vibration of my iridium phone. My editor, Courtney, was calling from New York.

"How are you?" she asked.

"Alive," I answered. It was definitely the word of the day. I quickly told her the story of my Mad Max escape from the Janjaweed militia. She almost couldn't believe it. Hell, I still couldn't either.

"Are you sure you're okay?" she asked. "You sound a little nonplussed—for you."

"All things considered, yes, I'm fine. I even learned something very important—I'm mortal. I'm really, really mortal."

"So where are you off to now?"

"Paris," I said.



"Je crois que non," said Courtney.

Now, I only had one year of French back at St. Patrick's High School in Newburgh, New York, but I was pretty sure she'd just said, "I don't think so."

"Why not?" I asked.

It was a good question—timely, too, because I was only two people away from handing over my boarding pass and heading to Paris, which is probably my favorite city in the world. Except for the people, of course. Not all of them—just the snots.

"You need to come home," said Courtney.

"Why? What's up?"

"Something good, Nick. Something really good. You're going to love this one."

That was enough to get me to take a half step out of line. Courtney Sheppard had a few notable vices, but hyperbole wasn't one of them.

"Okay," I said. "So blow me away."

And sure enough, that's exactly what Courtney did. She almost knocked me right out of my shoes.

Chapter 5

LET ME TIP my hand here—I know it's semiridiculous, but I am a huge baseball fan, have been since I was a little kid back in the Hudson Valley, throwing apples at tree trunks for practice.

To continue with the narrative, though. I cupped the phone tight against my ear trying to hear every word as best I could. The airport was absolutely swarming, with most of the noise coming from the next gate over, where there were a hundred men gathered, all with neatly trimmed black beards and crisp white flowing robes, otherwise known as dishdashas.

Then there was me.

A shock of sandy-brown hair on top of my six-foot-one frame dressed in a faded pair of jeans and an even more faded polo shirt. I couldn't stand out more if I were Gene Simmons wearing full Kiss makeup and reading the Koran out loud.

Courtney drew a deep breath. "You remember Dwayne Robinson?" she asked. Of course I did and she knew it.

"You mean, the same Dwayne Robinson who cost the Yankees—my Yankees—the World Series? That crazy bastard? That total enigma?"

"Ten years ago and you still hold a nasty grudge? You are nuts about baseball, aren't you?"

"Absolutely. It could be a hundred years and I'd still never forget… or forgive." I bristled.

What can I say? I've been a die-hard fan of the Bronx Bombers ever since my father drove us down from Newburgh and took me to my first game when I was five. We sat in the upper deck, about three miles from the field, but I didn't care. Ever since then I've just about bled Yankee pinstripes. And yes, I know it's nuts.

"On second thought, maybe this is a bad idea," said Courtney. "Go to Paris, Nick."

"What do you mean by that? What are you getting at? Why are you pushing me off to Paris now?"

She milked it for a few seconds. "He wants to do an interview with you."

I had this bizarre feeling that that's what she was going to say, but I was still surprised to hear it. Very surprised. Dwayne Robinson had been the J. D. Salinger of the baseball world ever since he got banned from the game in spectacular fashion. His last statement to the working press was "I'll never talk to any of you again." For the past decade, he'd been true to his word.

Lucky for me, things change. This was huge. This would be the story of my career so far. It was also a dream come true.

"Courtney, you miracle worker, how'd you get him to agree to an interview?" I asked.

"I wish I could take some of the credit," she said. "Instead I just answered the phone. I got a call from Robinson's agent yesterday."

"The guy still has an agent? That's amazing in itself."

"I know, go figure. Maybe they're hoping he'll be reinstated. Maybe that's it, what he wants to talk to you about."


On Sale
Sep 27, 2010
Hachette Audio

James Patterson

About the Author

James Patterson is the world’s bestselling author, best known for his many enduring fictional characters and series, including Alex Cross, the Women’s Murder Club, Michael Bennett, Maximum Ride, Middle School, I Funny, and Jacky Ha-Ha. Patterson’s writing career is characterized by a single mission: to prove to everyone, from children to adults, that there is no such thing as a person who “doesn’t like to read,” only people who haven’t found the right book. He’s given over a million books to schoolkids and over forty million dollars to support education, and endowed over five thousand college scholarships for teachers. He writes full-time and lives in Florida with his family.

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Howard Roughan

About the Author

Howard Roughan has cowritten several books with James Patterson and is the author of The Promise of a Lie and The Up and Comer. He lives in Florida with his wife and son.

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