Killing Floor by Lee Child

Chapter Twenty-Eight
PICARD MET US IN HIS DOUR LOBBY AND TOOK US OFF INTO a side room. We ran through what we knew. He nodded and his eyes gleamed. He was looking at a big case.

"Excellent work, my friends," he said. "But who are we dealing with now? I think we got to say all these little Hispanic guys are outsiders. They're the hired help. They're not concealed. But locally, we still got five out of the original ten hidden away. We haven't identified them. That could make things very tricky for us. We know about Morrison, Teale, Baker and the two Kliners, right? But who are the other five? Could be anybody down there, right?"

I shook my head at him.

"We only need to ID one more," I said. "I sniffed out four more last night. There's only the tenth guy we don't know. "

Picard and Finlay both sat up.

"Who are they?" Picard said.

"The two gatemen from the warehouse," I said. "And two more cops. The backup crew from last Friday. "

"More cops?" Finlay said. "Shit. "

Picard nodded. Laid his giant hands palm down on the table.

"OK," he said. "You guys head back to Margrave right now. Try to stay out of trouble, but if you can't, then make the arrests. But be very careful of this tenth guy. Could be anybody at all. I'll be right behind you. Give me twenty minutes to go get Roscoe back, and I'll see you down there. "

We all stood up. Shook hands all round. Picard headed upstairs and Finlay and I headed back out to the Bentley.

"How?" he asked me.

"Baker," I said. "He bumped into me last night. I spun him a yarn about going up to Hubble's place looking for some documentation, then I went up there and waited to see what would happen. Along came the Kliner kid and four of his pals. They came to nail me to Hubble's bedroom wall. "

"Christ," he said. "So what happened?"

"I took them out," I said.

He did his thing of staring sideways at me at ninety miles an hour.

"You took them out?" he said. "You took the Kliner kid out?"

I nodded. He was quiet for a while. Slowed to eighty-five.

"How did it go down?" he asked.

"I ambushed them," I said. "Three of them, I hit on the head. One of them, I cut his throat. The Kliner kid, I drowned in the swimming pool. That's how Joe's list got soaked. Washed all the writing off. "

"Christ," he said again. "You killed five men. That's a hell of a thing, Reacher. How do you feel about that?"

I shrugged. Thought about my brother Joe. Thought about him as a tall gawky eighteen-year-old, just off to West Point. Thought about Molly Beth Gordon, holding up her heavy burgundy leather briefcase, smiling at me. I glanced across at Finlay and answered his question with one of my own.

"How do you feel when you put roach powder down?" I asked him.

He shook his head in a spasm like a dog clearing its coat of cold water.

"Only four left," he said.

He started kneading the old car's steering wheel like he was a baker making a pastry twist. He looked through the windshield and blew a huge sigh.

"Any feeling for this tenth guy?" he said.

"Doesn't really matter who it is," I said. "Right now he's up at the warehouse with the other three. They're short of staff now, right? They'll all be on guard duty overnight. Loading duty tomorrow. All four of them. "

I flicked on the Bentley's radio. Some big chrome thing. Some kind of a twenty-year-old English make. But it worked. It pulled in a decent station. I sat listening to the music, trying not to fall asleep.

"Unbelievable," Finlay said. "How the hell did a place like Margrave start up with a thing like this?"

"How did it start?" I said. "It started with Eisenhower. It's his fault. "

"Eisenhower?" he said. "What's he got to do with it?"

"He built the interstates," I said. "He killed Margrave. Way back, that old county road was the only road. Everybody and everything had to pass through Margrave. The place was full of rooming houses and bars, people were passing through, spending money. Then the highways got built, and air travel got cheap, and suddenly the town died. It withered away to a dot on the map because the highway missed it by fourteen miles. "

"So it's the highway's fault?" he said.

"It's Mayor Teale's fault," I said. "The town sold the land for the warehouses to earn itself some new money, right? Old Teale brokered the deal. But he didn't have the courage to say no when the new money turned out to be bad money. Kliner was fixing to use it for the scam he was setting up, and old Teale jumped straight into bed with him. "

"He's a politician," Finlay said. "They never say no to money. And it was a hell of a lot of money. Teale rebuilt the whole town with it. "

"He drowned the whole town with it," I said. "The place is a cesspool. They're all floating around in it. From the mayor right down to the guy who polishes the cherry trees. "

We stopped talking again. I fiddled with the radio dial and heard Albert King tell me if it wasn't for bad luck, he wouldn't have no luck at all.

"But why Margrave?" Finlay said again.

Old Albert told me bad luck and trouble's been his only friend.

"Geography and opportunity," I said. "It's in the right place. All kinds of highways meet down here and it's a straight run on down to the boatyards in Florida. It's a quiet place and the people who ran the town were greedy scumbags who'd do what they were told. "

He went quiet. Thinking about the torrent of dollar bills rushing south and east. Like a storm drain after a flood. A little tidal wave. A small and harassed workforce in Margrave keeping it rolling on. The slightest hitch and tens of thousands of dollars would back up and jam. Like a sewer. Enough money to drown a whole town in. He drummed his long fingers on the wheel. Drove the rest of the way in silence.

WE PARKED UP IN THE SLOT NEAREST THE STATION HOUSE door. The car was reflected in the plate glass. An antique black Bentley, worth a hundred grand on its own. With another hundred grand in the trunk. The most valuable vehicle in the State of Georgia. I popped the trunk lid. Laid my jacket on top of the air conditioner box. Waited for Finlay and walked up to the door.

The place was deserted apart from the desk sergeant. He nodded to us. We skirted the reception counter. Walked through the big quiet squad room to the rosewood office in back. Stepped in and closed the door. Finlay looked uneasy.

"I want to know who the tenth guy is," he said. "It could be anybody. Could be the desk sergeant. There's been four cops in this already. "

"It's not him," I said. "He never does anything. Just parks his fat ass on that stool. Could be Stevenson, though. He was connected to Hubble. "

He shook his head.

"No," he said. "Teale pulled him in off the road when he took over. He wanted him where he could see him. So it's not Stevenson. I guess it could be anybody. Could be Eno. Up at the diner? He's a bad-tempered type of a guy. "

I looked at him.

"You're a bad-tempered type of a guy, Finlay," I said. "Bad temper never made anybody a criminal. "

He shrugged. Ignored the jibe.

"So what do we do?" he said.

"We wait for Roscoe and Picard," I said. "We take it from there. "

I sat on the edge of the big rosewood desk, swinging my leg. Finlay paced up and down on the expensive carpet. We waited like that for about twenty minutes and then the door opened. Picard stood there. He was so big, he filled the whole doorway. I saw Finlay staring at him, like there was something wrong with him. I followed his gaze.

There were two things wrong with Picard. First, he didn't have Roscoe with him. Second, he was holding a government-issue. 38 in his giant hand. He was holding it rock steady, and he was pointing it straight at Finlay.
Previous Page Next Page
Should you have any enquiry, please contact us via [email protected]