One Shot by Lee Child

Chapter 10

  Reacher was falling asleep on the bed in room 310 at the Marriott Suites. He was on his back, like a dead man. He and Hutton had talked so long in the coffee shop that she had almost been late for her appointment. She had checked her watch at five to four and had thrust her key card at him and asked him to dump her bag in her room. Then she had run straight out to the street. He guessed he was supposed to leave her card at the desk afterward. But he didn't. He didn't have anywhere he needed to be. Not right then. So he just parked the bag and stayed inside.

  He wasn't crazy about room 310, all things considered. It was on the third floor, which made the window a difficult escape route. Room eight at the motor court had been better. Much better. Ground floor, a tangled old neighborhood, it gave a guy a sporting chance. Open the window, step out, look for an alley, or a door, or another window. That was good. This was bad. He was three floors up. A long climb. And he wasn't even sure if the Marriott's windows opened at all. Maybe they didn't. Maybe the main office lawyers had been worried about liability. Maybe they had foreseen a steady deluge of infants raining down on the parking lot blacktop. Or maybe it was a question of economies of scale. Maybe the cost of hinges and handles outweighed a little extra on the air-conditioning bill. Whatever, it wasn't a great room to be in. Not by any measure. Not for the long term.

  But it was OK for the short term. So he closed his eyes and drifted away. Sleep when you can, because you never know when you're going to sleep again. That was the old army rule.

  Emerson's plan was pretty straightforward. He put Donna Bianca in room seven. Told the two patrolmen to stash their car three streets away and walk back and wait in room nine. He put a car two streets behind the motor court, and another four blocks north, where the auto dealers were, and another two blocks south. He told the clerk to stay awake and watch through the window and call Bianca in room seven as soon as he saw the guy he knew as Heffner walk in.

  Eileen Hutton got back to the Marriott at four-thirty. There was no key card waiting for her at the desk. No message. So she went up in the elevator and followed the arrows to room 310 and knocked on the door. There was a short pause and then the door opened and Reacher let her in.

  "How's my room?" she asked.

  "The bed's comfortable," he said.

  "I'm supposed to call Emerson if I see you," she said.

  "Are you going to?"

  "No. "

  "Perjury and harboring a fugitive," he said. "All in one day. "

  She dug in her purse and came out with Emerson's card. "You're their only suspect. He gave me three separate phone numbers. They sound pretty serious. "

  He took the card from her. Put it in his back pocket, with the cocktail napkin that had Helen Rodin's cell number on it. He was turning into a walking phone book.

  "How was the thing with Rodin?" he asked.

  "Straightforward," she said.

  He said nothing. She moved around, checking the suite. Bathroom, bedroom, living room, kitchenette. She took her bag and stood it neatly against a wall.

  "Want to stay?" she said.

  He shook his head.

  "I can't," he said.

  "OK," she said.

  "But I could come back later, if you like. "

  She paused a beat.

  "OK," she said. "Come back later. "

  Alex Rodin stepped back into his office and closed the door and called Emerson.

  "Have you got him yet?" he asked.

  "Just a matter of time," Emerson said. "We're looking for him all over. And we're watching his room. He's at the old motor court. Under a false name. "

  "That's interesting," Rodin said. "It means he might have used a false name at the Metropole, too. "

  "I'll check," Emerson said. "I'll show the clerk the picture. "

  "We might really be able to nail him," Rodin said. He clicked off, thinking about two new framed headlines for his office wall. First Barr, and then Reacher.

  Reacher let himself out of Hutton's suite and used the stairs instead of the elevator. On the ground floor he turned away from the lobby and found a back corridor with a fire door at the end of it. He pushed the fire door open and held it ajar with his foot. Took Emerson's card out of his pocket and tore it in half lengthwise and folded the half with the name on it four times. He pressed the tongue into the fire door's lock with the ball of his thumb and wedged it there with the folded cardboard. He closed the door gently and pushed it flush with the frame with the flat of his hand. Then he walked away, past a Dumpster, through the staff lot, out to the street, heading north. The sidewalks were busy and the traffic lanes were starting to clog. He walked at a normal pace and used his height to scan the middle distance for patrol cars or cops on corners. The day was still warm. There was a weather system somewhere out there. Somewhere near. There was high pressure in the sky, clamping down, trapping the smell of damp earth and nitrogen fertilizer in the air.

  He reached the raised highway and turned west in its shadow. The roadbed strode along on pillars forty feet high. Underneath it were untidy lots, some vacant and full of trash, some with old brick buildings with dark skylights in their roofs, some with new metal sheds housing body shops and spray paint operations. He passed the back of the black glass tower and stayed in the highway's shadow and turned south, ready to pass behind the library. He stopped suddenly and crouched and fiddled with his shoe. Like he had a stone. Glanced back under his arm and saw nobody behind him. No tail.

  He moved on. After the library he was exposed for forty yards. The plaza was east of him. He stopped momentarily on a spot he judged was directly below where Helen Rodin had parked the day before and where James Barr should have parked on Friday. Forty feet lower down the view was different but the geometry was the same. He could see the wilted tributes propped against the pool's southern wall. They were small splashes of faded color in the distance. Beyond them was the DMV's door. People were coming out in ones and twos. He checked his watch. Ten to five.

  He moved on, in the open, and made it across to First Street's northernmost block. He looped one block south and three blocks east and came up on the parking garage's entrance from the west. He walked up the ramp and found the security camera's lens. It was a small circle of dirty glass mounted on a plain black box that was bolted high up in the angle of two concrete beams. He waved at it. It was too high, ideally. It should have been lower, at license plate level. But all the pillars below waist height were scuffed and scraped. A rainbow of different colors. Drivers were careless. Mounted lower, the camera would have lasted a day and a half. Maybe less.

  He walked up the ramps to the second level. Headed north and east, to the far back corner. The garage was still and quiet, but full. The space that James Barr had used was occupied. No room for sentiment in the scramble for downtown parking. No room for reverence.

  The border between the old garage and the new construction was marked by a triple barrier of tape strung between pillars. There was standard yellow-and-black contractor's Caution Do Not Enter tape and above it and below it were new lengths of blue-and-white Police Line Do Not Cross tape. He used his forearm and stretched all three lines higher and just ducked underneath. No need to drop to one knee. No need to scuff a pair of jeans. No need to leave a mess of fibers. Not even for a guy six inches taller than Barr, and not even with a new line of tape six inches lower than the one Barr had encountered. He was literally going out of his way to leave every last piece of evidence he could.

  Reacher walked on into the gloom. The new construction was rectangular in shape. Maybe forty yards south to north, maybe two hundred east to west. Which meant Reacher arrived at the new northeast corner after thirty-five paces. He stood six feet back from the perimeter wall and looked down and right. He had a perfectly good view. No need to press up against a pillar. No need to squirm around like a horse on its back in a summer meadow.

  He stood there and watched. People were coming ou
t of the government office in increasing numbers. There was quite a flow. Some paused and lit cigarettes as soon as they were out in the air. Others moved on directly west, some fast, some slow. All of them turned and tracked around the north end of the pool. None of them walked where Barr's victims had walked. The funeral tributes were a disincentive. A reminder. Therefore it was hard to judge what Friday's scene had looked like. Hard, but not impossible. Reacher watched the walking people and in his mind made them forgo their respectful right turns. He made them continue straight on. They would be slow entering the bottleneck. But not too slow. And they would be close. The combination of moderate speed and proximity would exaggerate the deflection angles. It would make the job harder. It was a basic principle of long-gun use. A bird traversing the sky a hundred yards away was an easy target. The same bird at the same speed flying six feet in front of your face was an impossible target.

  He pictured the people streaming right-to-left. He closed one eye and extended his arm and pointed his finger. Click, click-click, click-click-click. Six aimed shots. Four seconds. Fast. Tough geometry. Tension, exposure, vulnerability.

  Six hits, including the deliberate miss.

  Exceptional shooting.

  They don't forget.

  He dropped his arm to his side. It was cold in the gloom. He shivered. The air was clammy and damp and full of the smell of lime. It had been hot in Kuwait City. The air had been shimmering and full of the smell of baked dust and desert sand. Reacher had stood in the parking garage and sweated. The street below him had been blinding. Murderous. Like a blast furnace.

  Hot in Kuwait City.

  Four shots there.

  Six shots here.

  He stood and watched the people coming out the DMV door. There were plenty of them. Ten, twelve, fifteen, twenty. They turned and looped north and then turned again and walked west between the pool and the NBC peacock. They gave each other space. But if they had been in the bottleneck they would have bunched up tight.

  Plenty of them.

  Six shots, in four seconds.

  He looked for anyone not moving. Didn't see anybody. No cops, no old men in boxy suits. He turned around and retraced his steps. Lifted the tape again and ducked under it and walked back down the ramps. Slipped out to the street and turned west, heading for the shadows under the highway. Heading for the library.

  He crossed the forty yards of open ground and hugged the library's side wall and went in through a handicapped entrance. He had to walk close to the desk, but he wasn't worried about that. If Emerson started circulating Wanted notices he would hit the post offices and bars and hotels first. It would be a long time before he started canvassing librarians.

  He made it to the lobby OK and stepped over to the pay phones. Took the cocktail napkin out of his pocket and dialed Helen Rodin's cell. She picked up on the fifth ring. He pictured her rooting through her purse, squinting at the screen, fumbling with the buttons.

  "Are you alone?" he asked.

  "Reacher?"

  "Yes," he said. "Are you alone?"

  "Yes," she said. "But you're in trouble. "

  "Who called you?"

  "My father. "

  "You believe him?"

  "No. "

  "I'm coming to see you. "

  "There's a cop in the lobby. "

  "I figured. I'll come in through the garage. "

  He hung up and walked back past the desk and out the side entrance. Back under the highway. He stayed in its shelter until he was opposite the back of the black glass tower. Opposite the vehicle ramp. He checked left, checked right, and walked straight down. Past the NBC trucks, past the Mustang he figured for Ann Yanni's, to the elevator. He pressed the call button and waited. Checked his watch. Five-thirty. Most people would be leaving the building. A down elevator was certain to stop at the lobby level. An up elevator, maybe not. He hoped.

  The elevator car arrived in the garage and let three people out. They walked away. Reacher stepped in. Pressed 4. Stood back. The car rose one floor and stopped. In the lobby. The doors slid back like a theater curtain. The cop was right there, four feet from the elevator, facing away. He had his feet apart and his hands on his hips. He was almost close enough to touch. A man stepped into the elevator. He didn't speak. Just nodded a two-guys-in-an-elevator greeting. Reacher nodded back. The guy pressed 7. The doors stayed open. The cop watched the street. The new guy jiggled the button. The cop moved. He swiped his cap off his head and ran his fingers through his hair. The doors closed. The elevator moved up.

  Reacher got out on four and walked through a small knot of people on their way home. Helen Rodin had her door open and ready. He stepped inside her suite and she closed up after him. She was wearing a short black skirt and a white blouse. She looked young. Like a schoolgirl. And she looked worried. Like a conflicted person.

  "I should turn you in," she said.

  "But you won't," Reacher said.

  "No," she said. "I should, but I won't. "

  "Truth is I liked that girl," Reacher said. "She was a sweet kid. "

  "She set you up. "

  "I wasn't offended. "

  "Someone didn't like her. "

  "We can't tell. Affection didn't come into it. She was disposable, that's all. A means to an end. "

  "The puppet master really doesn't want you around. "

  Reacher nodded. "That's for damn sure. But he's shit out of luck there, because I'm not leaving now. He just guaranteed that for himself. "

  "Is it safe to stay?"

  "It's safe enough. But this thing with the girl is going to slow me down. So you're going to have to do most of the work. "

  She led him into the inner office. She sat down at her desk. He stayed well away from the window. He sat on the floor and propped his back against the wall.

  "I already started the work," Helen said. "I spoke to Rosemary and talked to Barr's neighbors. Then I went back to the hospital. I think we're looking for a guy called Charlie. Small guy, bristly black hair. Interested in guns. I got the impression he's kind of furtive. I think he's going to be hard to find. "

  "How long has he been on the scene?"

  "Five or six years, apparently. He's the only long-term friend anyone could name. And he's the only one Barr owns up to. "

  Reacher nodded again. "That works for me. "

  "And Barr doesn't know Jeb Oliver and doesn't use drugs. "

  "You believe him?"

  "Yes, I do," Helen said. "Really. Right now I believe everything he says. It's like he spent fourteen years turning his life around and now he can't believe he went back. I think he's as upset about all this as anyone. "

  "Except the victims. "

  "Give him a break, Reacher. Something weird was going on. "

  "Does this guy Charlie know about Kuwait City?"

  "Barr wouldn't say. But I think he does. "

  "Where does he live?"

  "Barr doesn't know. "

  "He doesn't know?"

  "He just sees him around. He just shows up now and then. Like I said, I think he's going to be hard to find. "

  Reacher said nothing.

  "Did you speak to Eileen Hutton?" Helen asked.

  "She's no threat. The army is keeping the lid on. "

  "Did you find the guy that was following you?"

  "No," Reacher said. "I didn't see him again. They must have pulled him off. "

  "So we're nowhere. "

  "We're closer than we were. We can start to see a shape. We can see four guys, at least. One, the old guy in the suit. Two, this guy called Charlie. Three, someone big and very strong and left-handed. "

  "Why him?"

  "He killed the girl last night. The old guy is too old and it sounds like Charlie might be too small. And the physical evidence suggests a left-handed blow. "

  "And number four is the puppet master. "

  Reacher nodded again. "In the shadows
somewhere, making plans, pulling strings. We can assume he doesn't run around doing this kind of stuff himself. "

  "But how can we get to him? If he's pulled the guy off your tail, we can assume he's pulled Charlie back, too. They're hunkering down. "

  "There's another way. A big wide highway. "

  "Where?"

  "We missed something very obvious," Reacher said. "We spent all this time looking down the wrong end of the gun. All we've done is look at who fired it. "

  "What should we have done?"

  "We should have thought harder. "

  "About what?"

  "James Barr fired four times in Kuwait City. And he fired six times here. "

  "OK," Helen said. "He fired two more shots here. So?"

  "But he didn't," Reacher said. "Not really. Not if you think about it laterally. Truth is he fired four fewer shots here. "

  "That's ridiculous. Six is two more than four. Not four fewer. "

  "Kuwait City was very hot. Unbearable in the middle of the day. You had to be nuts to be out and about. The streets were empty most of the time. "

  "So?"

  "So in Kuwait City James Barr killed every live human he saw. One, two, three, four, game over. The street was deserted apart from our four guys. They were the only people dumb enough to be out in the heat. And Barr took them all. He ran the table. At the time it seemed logical to me. He wanted to see the pink mist. It struck me that maybe he might have been satisfied with seeing it once, but apparently he wasn't. So it made some kind of sense that if he didn't stop at one, he would go all the way until he ran out of targets. And he did. In Kuwait City, he ran out of targets. "

  Helen Rodin said nothing.

  "But he didn't run out of targets here," Reacher said. "There had to have been a dozen people in that bottleneck. Or fifteen. More than ten, anyway. And he had a ten-round magazine. But he stopped shooting after six. Just stopped. He left four rounds in the gun. They're listed right there in Bellantonio's dog and pony show. And that's what I meant. He fired the most he could fire in Kuwait City, and four less than the most he could fire here. Which makes the psychology different here. He chose not to run the table here. Why?"

  "Because he was hurrying?"

  "He had an autoloader. The voice-mail recording shows six shots in four seconds. Which means he could have fired ten in less than seven seconds. Three seconds wouldn't have made any kind of a difference to him. "

  Helen said nothing.

  "I asked him," Reacher said. "When I saw him in the hospital. I asked him how he would have done it, theoretically. Like a recon briefing. So he thought about it. He knows the area. He said he would have parked on the highway. Behind the library. He said he would have buzzed the window down and emptied the mag. "

  Helen said nothing.

  "But he didn't empty the mag," Reacher said. "He stopped shooting after six. Just stopped. Coldly and calmly. Which makes the whole dynamic different. This wasn't a crazy man sent out to terrorize the city on a dare. He wasn't pushed into it just for the fun of the carnage. This wasn't random, Helen. It wasn't psychotic. There was a specific, limited, coherent purpose behind it. Which reverses the focus. We should have seen it. We should have seen that this whole thing is about the victims, not the shooter. They weren't just unlucky people in the wrong place at the wrong time. "

  "They were targets?" Helen said.

  "Carefully chosen," Reacher said. "And as soon as they were safely down, Barr packed up and left. With four bullets remaining. A random psycho episode wouldn't have panned out like that. He'd have kept on pulling the trigger until he clicked on empty. So this wasn't a spree. It was an assassination. "

  Silence in the office.

  "We need to look at who the victims were," Reacher said. "And we need to look at who wanted them dead. That's what's going to lead us to where we need to be. "

  Helen Rodin didn't move.

  "And we need to do it real fast," Reacher said. "Because I don't have much time and we already wasted the best part of three days looking at everything ass-backward. "

  The tired thirty-year-old doctor on the sixth floor of the county hospital was finishing up his afternoon rounds. He had left James Barr for last. Partly because he wasn't expecting any dramatic change in his condition, and partly because he didn't care anyway. Looking after sick thieves and swindlers was bad enough, but looking after a mass murderer was absurd. Doubly absurd, because straight after Barr was on his feet he was going to be laid back down on a gurney and some other doctor was going to come in and kill him.

  But ethical obligations are hard to ignore. As is habit. As is duty, and routine, and structure. So the doctor went into Barr's room and picked up his chart. Took out his pen. Glanced at the machines. Glanced at the patient. He was awake. His eyes were moving.

  Alert, the doctor wrote.

  "Happy?" he asked.

  "Not really," Barr said.

  Responsive, the doctor wrote.

  "Tough shit," he said, and put his pen away.

  Barr's right handcuff was rattling gently against the cot rail. His right hand itself was trembling and slightly cupped and the thumb and index finger were in constant motion, like he was trying to roll an imaginary ball of wax into a perfect sphere.

  "Stop that," the doctor said.

  "Stop what?"

  "Your hand. "

  "I can't. "

  "Is that new?"

  "A year or two. "

  "Not just since you woke up?"

  "No. "

  The doctor looked at the chart. Age: Forty-one.

  "Do you drink?" he asked.

  "Not really," Barr said. "A sip sometimes, to help me sleep. "

  The doctor disbelieved him automatically and flipped through the chart to the tox screen and the liver function test. But the tox screen was clear and the liver function was healthy. Not a drinker. Not an alcoholic. Not even close.

  "Have you seen your own physician recently?" he asked.

  "I don't have insurance," Barr said.

  "Stiffness in your arms and legs?"

  "A little. "

  "Does your other hand do that, too?"

  "Sometimes. "

  The doctor took out his pen again and scribbled on the bottom of the chart: Observed tremor in right hand, not post-traumatic, primary diagnosis alcoholism unlikely, stiffness in limbs present, possible early-onset PA?

  "What's wrong with me?" Barr asked.

  "Shut up," the doctor said. Then, duty done, he clipped the chart back on the foot of the bed and walked out of the room.

  Helen Rodin searched through the evidence cartons and came out with the formal specification of charges against James Barr. Among many other technical violations of the law, the State of Indiana had listed five counts of homicide in the first degree with aggravating circumstances, and as due process required had gone on to list the five alleged victims by name, sex, age, address, and occupation. Helen scanned the page, ran her fingers down the columns for address and occupation.

  "I don't see any obvious connections," she said.

  "I didn't mean they were all targets," Reacher said. "Probably only one of them was. Two, at most. The others were window dressing. An assassination disguised as a spree. That's my guess. "

  "I'll get to work," she said.

  "I'll see you tomorrow," he said.

  He used the fire stairs instead of the elevator and got back to the garage unseen. He hustled up the ramp and across the street and under the highway again. The invisible man. Life in the shadows. He smiled. He stopped.

  He decided to go look for a pay phone.

  He found one on the side wall of a small grocery called Martha's, two blocks north of the cheap clothing store he had used. The booth faced a wide alley that was used as a narrow parking lot. There were six slanted spaces full of six cars. Beyond them, a high brick wall topped with broken glass. The alley turned ninety de
grees behind the grocery. He guessed it turned again somewhere and let out on the next block south.

  Safe enough, he thought.

  He took Emerson's torn card out of his pocket. Chose the cell number. Dialed the phone. Leaned his shoulder against the wall and watched both ends of the alley at once and listened to the purr of the ring tone in his ear.

  "Yes?" Emerson said.

  "Guess who?" Reacher said.

  "Reacher?"

  "You named that tune in one. "

  "Where are you?"

  "I'm still in town. "

  "Where?"

  "Not far away. "

  "You know we're looking for you, right?"

  "I heard. "

  "So you need to turn yourself in. "

  "I don't think so. "

  "Then we'll come find you," Emerson said.

  "Think you can?"

  "It'll be easy. "

  "You know a guy called Franklin?"

  "Sure I do. "

  "Ask him how easy it'll be. "

  "That was different. You could have been anywhere. "

  "You got the motor court staked out?"

  There was a pause. Emerson said nothing.

  "Keep your people there," Reacher said. "Maybe I'll be back. Or on the other hand, maybe I won't. "

  "We'll find you. "

  "Not a chance. You're not good enough. "

  "Maybe we're tracing this call. "

  "I'll save you the trouble. I'm outside a grocery called Martha's. "

  "You should come in from the cold. "

  "I'll trade," Reacher said. "Find out who placed the cone in the parking garage and then I'll think about coming in. "

  "Barr placed the cone. "

  "You know he didn't. His van isn't on the tapes. "

  "So he used another vehicle. "

  "He doesn't have another vehicle. "

  "So he borrowed one. "

  "From a friend?" Reacher said. "Maybe. Or maybe the friend placed the cone for him. Either way, you find that friend, and I'll think about coming in to talk to you. "

  "There are hundreds of cars on those tapes. "

  "You've got the resources," Reacher said.

  "I don't trade," Emerson said.

  "I think his name is Charlie," Reacher said. "Small guy, wiry black hair. "

  "I don't trade," Emerson said again.

  "I didn't kill the girl," Reacher said.

  "Says you. "

  "I liked her. "

  "You're breaking my heart. "

  "And you know I didn't stay at the Metropole last night. "

  "Which is why you dumped her there. "

  "And I'm not left-handed. "

  "I don't follow. "

  "Tell Bellantonio to talk to your ME. "

  "We'll find you," Emerson said.

  "You won't," Reacher said. "Nobody ever has before. "

  Then he hung up and walked back to the street. Crossed the road and hiked half a block north and took cover behind a stack of unused concrete lane dividers in a vacant lot. He waited. Six minutes later two cruisers pulled up in front of Martha's grocery. Lights, but no sirens. Four cops spilled out. Two went in the store and two went to find the phone. Reacher watched them regroup on the sidewalk. Watched them search the alley and check around its corner. Watched them come back. Watched them admit defeat. He saw one of the four get on his radio for a short conversation full of defensive body language. Raised palms, shrugged shoulders. Then the conversation ended and Reacher slipped away east, heading back toward the Marriott.

  The Zec had only a thumb and a single finger remaining on each hand. On the right was a stump of an index finger, blackened and gnarled by frostbite. He had once spent a week outdoors in the winter, wearing an old Red Army tunic, and the way its previous owner's water canteen had ridden on his belt had worn the fabric of the right pocket thinner than the left. On such trivial differences survival had hung. His left hand had been saved, and his right hand lost. He had felt his fingers die from the pinkie inward. He had taken his hand out of his pocket and let it freeze hard enough to go completely numb. Then he had chewed off the dead fingers before the gangrene could spread. He remembered dropping them to the ground, one by one, like small brown twigs.

  His left hand retained the pinkie. The middle three fingers were missing. Two had been amputated by a sadist with garden shears. The Zec had removed the other himself, with a sharpened spoon, so as to be disqualified for labor in some machine shop or other. He couldn't recall the specifics, but he remembered a persuasive rumor that it was better to lose another finger than work on that particular detail. Something to do with the overseer.

  Ruined hands. Just two of many souvenirs of another time, another place. He wasn't very aware of them anymore, but they made modern life difficult. Cell phones had gotten so damn small. Linsky's number was ten digits long, and it was a pig to dial. The Zec never retained a phone long enough to make it worth storing a number. That would be madness.

  Eventually he got the number entered and he concentrated hard and pressed the call button with his left-hand pinkie. Then he juggled the phone into his other palm and cupped it near his ear. He didn't need to hold it close. His hearing was still excellent, which was a miracle all by itself.

  "Yes?" Linsky said.

  "They can't find him," the Zec said. "I shouldn't have told you to break off our own surveillance. My mistake. "

  "Where have they looked?"

  "Here and there. He stayed last night at the motor court. They've got it staked out, but I'm sure he won't go back. They've got a man at the lawyer's office. Other than that, they're stumbling around in the dark. "

  "What do you want me to do?"

  "I want you to find him. Use Chenko and Vladimir. And I'll send Raskin to you. Work together. Find him tonight and then call me. "

  Reacher stopped two blocks short of the Marriott. He knew what Emerson would be doing. He had been Emerson for thirteen years. Emerson would be running down a mental list. Likely haunts, known associates. Likely haunts at this time of day would include eating places. So Emerson would be sending cars to diners and restaurants and cafes, including the salad place that Helen Rodin liked and the sports bar. Then he would move on to known associates, which pretty much limited him to Helen Rodin herself. He would have the lobby cop ride up to the fourth floor and knock on the office door.

  Then he would take a chance on Eileen Hutton.

  So Reacher stopped two blocks short of the Marriott and looked around for a place to wait. He found one behind a shoe store. There was a three-sided corral made of head-high brick walls shielding a shoulder-high plastic garbage receptacle from public view. Reacher stepped in and found that if he leaned his shoulder on the trash can he could see a yard-wide sliver of the Marriott's main door. He wasn't uncomfortable. And it was the best-smelling garbage dump he had ever been in. The can smelled of fresh cardboard and new shoes. Better than the kind of place you find behind a fish store.

  He figured if Emerson was efficient he would have to wait less than thirty minutes. Very efficient, less than twenty. Average, somewhere up around an hour. He leaned on the trash can and passed the time. It wasn't late but the streets were already quiet. There were very few people out and about. He watched, and waited. Then the smell of new leather from the discarded shoe boxes distracted him. It started him thinking about footwear. Maybe he should drop by the store sometime and pick out a brand-new pair. He stuck his foot out and looked down. The boat shoes he had on were soft and light and the soles were thin. They had been fine for Miami. Not so good for his current situation. He could foresee a time when he would appreciate something heavier.

  Then he looked down again. Rocked back and brought his feet together and took the same pace forward. And stopped. He tried it again with his other foot, and stopped again, like a freeze-frame of a man walking. He stared down, with something in the back of his min
d. Something from Bellantonio's evidence. Something among all those hundreds of printed pages.

  Then he looked up again, because he sensed movement in the corner of his eye at the Marriott's door two blocks away. He saw a squad car's hood. It moved into his field of view and dipped once as it braked and stopped. Then two cops appeared, in uniform, walking forward. He glanced at his watch. Twenty-three minutes. He smiled. Emerson was good, but not unbelievable. The cops went in through the door. They would spend five minutes with the desk clerk. The clerk would give up Hutton's room number without a fight. Generally speaking, hotel clerks from small heartland cities weren't ACLU activists. And guests were gone tomorrow, but the local PD was always there.

  So the cops would go to Hutton's room. They would knock on her door. Hutton would let them in. She had nothing to hide. The cops would poke around and be on their way. Ten minutes, tops, beginning to end.

  Reacher checked his watch again, and waited.

  The cops were back out after eight minutes. They paused outside the doors, tiny figures far in the distance. One of them ducked his head to his collar and used his radio, calling in a negative progress report, listening for the next destination. The next likely haunt. The next known associate. Pure routine. Have a fun evening, boys, Reacher thought. Because I'm going to. That's for damn sure. He watched them drive off and waited another minute in case they were driving his way. Then he stepped out of the brick corral and headed for Eileen Hutton.

  Grigor Linsky waited in his car in a fire lane in a supermarket parking lot, framed against a window that was entirely pasted over with a gigantic orange advertisement for ground beef at a very low price. Old and spoiled, Linsky thought. Or full of Listeria. The kind of thing the Zec and I would once have killed to eat. And killed was the truth. Linsky had no illusions. None at all. The Zec and he were bad people made worse by experience. Their shared suffering had conferred no grace or nobility. Quite the reverse. Men in their situation inclined toward grace and nobility had died within hours. But the Zec and he had survived, like sewer rats, by abandoning inhibition, by fighting and clawing, by betraying those stronger than themselves, by dominating those weaker.

  And they had learned. What works once works always.

  Linsky watched in his mirror and saw Raskin's car coming toward him. It was a Lincoln Town Car, the old square style, black and dusty, listing like a holed battleship. It stopped nose-to-tail with him and Raskin got out. He looked exactly like what he was, which was a second-rate Moscow hoodlum. Square build, flat face, cheap leather jacket, dull eyes. Forty-some years old. A stupid man, in Linsky's opinion, but he had survived the Red Army's last hurrah in Afghanistan, which had to count for something. Plenty of people smarter than Raskin hadn't come back whole, or come back at all. Which made Raskin a survivor, which was the quality that meant more than any other to the Zec.

  Raskin opened the rear door and slid into the back seat behind Linsky. He didn't speak. Just handed over four copies of Emerson's Wanted poster. A delivery from the Zec. How the Zec had gotten the posters, Linsky wasn't sure. But he could make a guess. The posters themselves were pretty good. The likeness was pretty accurate. It would serve its purpose.

  "Thank you," Linsky said politely.

  Raskin didn't respond.

  Chenko and Vladimir showed up two minutes later, in Chenko's Cadillac. Chenko was driving. Chenko always drove. He parked behind Raskin's Lincoln. Three large black cars, all in a line. Jack Reacher's funeral procession. Linsky smiled to himself. Chenko and Vladimir got out of their car and walked forward, one small and dark, the other big and fair. They got into Linsky's own Cadillac, Chenko in the front, Vladimir in the back next to Raskin, so that counting clockwise there was Linsky in the driver's seat, then Chenko, then Vladimir, then Raskin. The proper pecking order, instinctively obeyed. Linsky smiled again and handed out three copies of the poster. He kept one for himself, even though he didn't need it. He had seen Jack Reacher many times already.

  "We're going to start over," he said. "Right from the beginning. We can assume the police will have missed something. "

  Reacher pulled the fire door open and removed the cardboard plug from the lock and put it in his pocket. He stepped inside and let the door latch behind him. He followed the back corridor to the elevator and rode up to three. Knocked on Hutton's door. He had a line in his head, from Jack Nicholson playing a hard-ass Marine colonel in some movie about Navy lawyers: Nothing beats a woman you have to salute in the morning.

  Hutton took her time opening the door. He guessed she had settled down somewhere after getting rid of the cops. She hadn't expected to be disturbed again so soon. But eventually the door opened and she was standing there. She was wearing a robe, coming fresh out of the shower. The light behind her haloed her hair. The corridor was dim and the room looked warm and inviting.

  "You came back," she said.

  "Did you think I wouldn't?"

  He stepped into the suite and she closed the door behind him.

  "The cops were just here," she said.

  "I know," he said. "I watched them all the way. "

  "Where were you?"

  "In a garbage dump two blocks away. "

  "You want to wash up?"

  "It was a very clean garbage dump. Behind a shoe store. "

  "You want to go out to dinner?"

  "I'd prefer room service," he said. "I don't want to be walking around more than I have to. "

  "OK," she said. "That makes sense. Room service it is. "

  "But not just yet. "

  "Should I get dressed?"

  "Not just yet. "

  She paused a beat.

  "Why not?" she said.

  "Unfinished business," he said.

  She said nothing.

  "It's good to see you again," he said.

  "It's been less than three hours," she said.

  "I mean today," he said. "As a whole. After all this time. "

  Then he stepped close and cupped her face in his hands. Pushed his fingertips into her hair like he used to and traced the contours of her cheekbones with his thumbs.

  "Should we do this?" she said.

  "Don't you want to?"

  "It's been fourteen years," she said.

  "Like riding a bicycle," he said.

  "Think it will be the same?"

  "It'll be better. "

  "How much better?" she asked.

  "We were always good," he said. "Weren't we? How much better could it get?"

  She held still for a long moment. Then she put her hands behind his head. She pulled and he bent down and they kissed. Then again, harder. Then again, longer. Fourteen years melted away. Same taste, same feel. Same excitement. She pulled his shirt out of his pants and unbuttoned it from the bottom upward, urgently. When the last button was open she smoothed the flat of her hands over his chest, his shoulders, his back, down to his waistband, around to the front. His boat shoes came off easily. And his socks. He kicked his pants across the room and untied her belt. Her robe fell open.

  "Damn, Hutton," he said. "You haven't changed a bit. "

  "You either," she said.

  Then they headed for the bed, stumbling, fast and urgent, locked together like an awkward four-legged animal.

  Grigor Linsky took the south side of town. He checked the salad place and then cruised down to the docks. Turned around and quartered the narrow streets, covering three sides of every block, pausing at the turns to scan the sidewalks on the fourth. The Cadillac idled along. The power steering hissed at every corner. It was slow, patient work. But it wasn't a large city. There was no bustle. No crowds. And nobody could hide forever. That had been Grigor Linsky's experience.

  Afterward Hutton lay in Reacher's arms and used her fingertips to trace a long slow inventory of the body she had known so well. It had changed in fourteen years. He had said You haven't changed a bit and she had said You either, but she knew
both of them had been generous. Nobody stays the same. The Reacher she had known in the desert had been younger and baked lean by the heat, as fluid and graceful as a greyhound. Now he was heavier, with knotted muscles as hard as old mahogany. The scars she remembered had smoothed out and faded and were replaced by newer marks. There were lines in his forehead. Lines around his eyes. But his nose was still straight and unbroken. His front teeth were still there, like trophies. She slid her hand down to his and felt his knuckles. They were large and hard, like walnut shells matted with scar tissue. Still a fighter, she thought. Still trading his hands for his nose and his teeth. She moved up to his chest. He had a hole there, left of center. Ruptured muscle, a crater big enough for the tip of her finger. A gunshot wound. Old, but new to her. Probably a. 38.

  "New York," Reacher said. "Years ago. Everyone asks. "

  "Everyone?"

  "Who sees it. "

  Hutton snuggled in closer. "How many people see it?"

  He smiled. "You know, on beaches, stuff like that. "

  "And in bed?"

  "Locker rooms," he said.

  "And in bed," she said again.

  "I'm not a monk," he said.

  "Did it hurt?"

  "I don't remember. I was out for three weeks. "

  "It's right over your heart. "

  "It was a little revolver. Probably a weak load. He should have tried a head shot. That would have been better. "

  "For him. Not for you. "

  "I'm a lucky man. Always have been, always will be. "

  "Maybe. But you should take better care. "

  "I try my best. "

  Chenko and Vladimir stayed together and took the north side of town. They kept well away from the motor court. The cops had that situation buttoned up, presumably. So their first stop was the sports bar. They went in and walked around. It was dark inside and not very busy. Maybe thirty guys. None of them matched the sketch. None of them was Reacher. Vladimir stayed near the door and Chenko checked the men's room. One stall had a closed door. Chenko waited until the toilet flushed and the guy came out. It wasn't Reacher. It was just a guy. So Chenko rejoined Vladimir and they got back in the car. Started quartering the streets, slowly, patiently, covering three sides of every block and pausing at the turns to scan the sidewalks on the fourth.

  Hutton propped herself on an elbow and looked down at Reacher's face. His eyes were still the same. Set a little deeper, maybe, and a little more hooded. But they still shone blue like ice chips under an Arctic sun. Like a color map of twin snowmelt lakes in a high mountain landscape. But their expression had changed. Fourteen years ago they had been rimmed red by the desert sandstorms and clouded with some kind of bitter cynicism. They had been army eyes. Cop eyes. She remembered the way they would swing slow and lazy across a room like deadly tracers curling in toward a target. Now they were clearer. Younger. More innocent. He was fourteen years older, but his gaze was like a child's again.

  "You just had your hair cut," she said.

  "This morning," he said. "For you. "

  "For me?"

  "Yesterday I looked like a wild man. They told me you were coming. I didn't want you to think I was some kind of a bum. "

  "Aren't you?"

  "Some kind, I guess. "

  "What kind?"

  "The voluntary kind. "

  "We should eat," she said.

  "Sounds like a plan," he said.

  "What do you want?"

  "Whatever you get. We'll share. Order big portions. "

  "You can choose your own if you want. "

  He shook his head. "A month from now some DoD clerk is going to go through your expenses. Better for you if he sees one meal rather than two. "

  "Worried about my reputation?"

  "I'm worried about your next promotion. "

  "I won't get one. I'm terminal at Brigadier General. "

  "Not now that this Petersen guy owes you a big one. "

  "Can't deny two stars would be cool. "

  "For me too," Reacher said. "I got screwed by plenty of two-stars. To think I screwed one myself would be fun. "

  She made a face.

  "Food," Reacher said.

  "I like salads," she said.

  "Someone's got to, I guess. "

  "Don't you?"

  "Get a chicken Caesar to start and a steak to follow. You eat the rabbit food, I'll eat the steak. Then get some kind of a big dessert. And a big pot of coffee. "

  "I like tea. "

  "Can't do it," Reacher said. "There are some compromises I just can't make. Not even for the DoD. "

  "But I'm thirsty. "

  "They'll send ice water. They always do. "

  "I outrank you. "

  "You always did. You ever see me drink tea because of it?"

  She shook her head and got out of bed. Padded naked across to the desk. Checked the menu and dialed the phone. Ordered chicken Caesar, a sixteen-ounce sirloin, and a big pie with ice cream. And a six-cup pot of coffee. Reacher smiled at her.

  "Twenty minutes," she said. "Let's take a shower. "

  Raskin took the heart of downtown. He was on foot with the sketch in his hand and a list in his head: restaurants, bars, diners, sandwich shops, groceries, hotels. He started at the Metropole Palace. The lobby, the bar. No luck. He moved on to a Chinese restaurant two blocks away. In and out, fast and discreet. He figured he was pretty good for this kind of work. He wasn't a very noticeable guy. Not memorable. Average height, average weight, unremarkable face. Just a hole in the air, which in some ways was a frustration, but in others was a major advantage. People looked at him, but they didn't really see him. Their eyes slid right on by.

  Reacher wasn't in the Chinese place. Or the sub shop, or the Irish bar. So Raskin stopped on the sidewalk and decided to dodge north. He could check the lawyer's office and then head toward the Marriott. Because according to Linsky those places were where the women were. And in Raskin's experience guys who weren't just holes in the air got to hang out with women more than the average.

  Reacher got out of the shower and borrowed Hutton's toothbrush and toothpaste and comb. Then he toweled off and walked around and collected his clothes. Put them on and tucked his shirt in. He was dressed and sitting on the bed when he heard the knock at the door.

  "Room service," a foreign voice called.

  Hutton put her head out the bathroom door. She was dressed but halfway through drying her hair.

  "You go," Reacher said.

  "Me?"

  "You have to sign for it. "

  "You can write my name. "

  "Two hours from now the cops won't have found me and they'll come back here. Better that we don't have a guy downstairs who knows you're not alone. "

  "You never relax, do you?"

  "The less I relax, the luckier I get. "

  Hutton patted her hair into shape and headed for the door. Reacher heard the rattle of a cart and the clink of plates and the scratch of a pen. Then he heard the door close and he stepped through to the living room and found a wheeled table set up in the middle of the floor. The waiter had placed one chair behind it.

  "One knife," Hutton said. "One fork. One spoon. We didn't think of that. "

  "We'll take turns," Reacher said. "Kind of romantic. "

  "I'll cut your steak up and you can use your fingers. "

  "You could feed it to me. We should have ordered grapes. "

  She smiled.

  "Do you remember James Barr?" he asked.

  "Too much water over the dam," she said. "But I reread his file yesterday. "

  "How good a shooter was he?"

  "Not the best we ever had, not the worst. "

  "That's what I remember. I was just in the garage, taking a look. It was impressive shooting. Very impressive. I don't remember him being that good. "

  "There's a lot of evidence there. "

  He nodded. Said not
hing.

  "Maybe he's been practicing hard," she said. "He was in six years but he's been out nearly three times as long. Maybe he was a late developer. "

  "Maybe," he said.

  She looked at him. "You're not staying, are you? You're planning on leaving right after dinner. Because of this thing with the cops. You think they'll come back to the room. "

  "They will," Reacher said. "Count on it. "

  "I don't have to let them in. "

  "A place like this, the cops will do pretty much what they want. And if they find me here, you're in trouble. "

  "Not if you're innocent. "

  "You've got no legitimate way of telling what I am. That's what they'll say. "

  "I'm the lawyer here," Hutton said.

  "And I was a cop," Reacher said. "I know what they're like. They hate fugitives. Fugitives drive them nuts. They'll arrest you along with me and sort it all out next month. By which time your second star will be in the toilet. "

  "So where are you going?"

  "No idea. But I'll think of something. "

  The street door at the bottom of the black glass tower was locked for the night. Raskin knocked on it, twice. The security guard at the lobby desk looked up. Raskin waved the sketch at him.

  "Delivery," he mouthed.

  The guard got up and walked over and used a key from a bunch on a chain to unlock the door. Raskin stepped inside.

  "Rodin," he said. "Fourth floor. "

  The guard nodded. The law offices of Helen Rodin had received plenty of deliveries that day. Boxes, cartons, guys with hand trucks. One more was to be expected. No big surprise. He walked back to his desk without comment and Raskin walked over to the elevator. Got in and pressed 4.

  First thing he saw on the fourth floor was a city cop standing outside the lawyer's door. Raskin knew what that meant, immediately. It meant the lawyer's office was still a live possibility. Which meant Reacher wasn't in there at the present time and hadn't tried to get in there anytime recently. So Raskin wheeled around like he was confused by the corridor layout and headed around a corner. Waited a moment and then headed back to the elevator. He folded the sketch and put it in his pocket. In the lobby he gave the guard a job-done type of wave and headed back out into the night. Turned left and headed north and east toward the Marriott Suites.

  The six-cup pot of coffee was more than even Reacher could manage. He quit after five. Hutton didn't seem to mind. He guessed she thought five out of six justified his insistence.

  "Come see me in Washington," she said.

  "I will," he said. "For sure. Next time I'm there. "

  "Don't get caught. "

  "I won't," he said. "Not by these guys. "

  Then he just looked at her for a minute. Storing away the memory. Adding another fragment to his mosaic. He kissed her once on the lips and walked to the door. Let himself out into the corridor and headed for the stairs. On the ground floor he turned away from the lobby and used the fire door again. It swung shut and locked behind him and he took a deep breath and stepped out of the shadows and headed for the sidewalk.

  Raskin saw him immediately. He was thirty yards away, walking fast, coming up on the Marriott from the rear. He saw a flash of glass in the streetlight. A fire door, opening. He saw a tall man stepping out. Standing still. Then the door jerked shut on a hydraulic closer and the tall man turned to watch it latch behind him and a stray beam of light was reflected off the moving glass and played briefly across his face. Just for a split second, like a handheld flashlight swinging through a fast arc. Like a camera strobe. Not much. But enough for Raskin to be certain. The man who had come through the fire door was the man in the sketch. Jack Reacher, for sure, no question. Right height, right weight, right face. Raskin had studied the details long and hard.

  So he stopped dead and stepped backward into the shadows. Watched, and waited. Saw Reacher glance right, glance left, and set out walking straight ahead, due west, fast and easy. Raskin stayed where he was and counted one, two, three in his head. Then he came out of the shadows and crossed the parking lot and stopped again and peered around the corner to the west. Reacher was twenty yards ahead. Still walking, still relaxed. Still unaware. Center of the sidewalk, long strides, his arms swinging loose at his sides. He was a big guy. That was for sure. As big as Vladimir, easily.

  Raskin counted to three again and let Reacher get forty yards ahead. Then he set out following. He kept his eyes fixed on the target and fumbled his cell phone out of his pocket. Dialed Grigor Linsky's number. Reacher walked on, forty yards in the distance. Raskin put the phone to his ear.

  "Yes?" Linsky said.

  "I found him," Raskin whispered.

  "Where?"

  "He's walking. West from the Marriott. He's about level with the courthouse now, two blocks to the north. "

  "Where's he going?"

  "Wait," Raskin whispered. "Hold on. "

  Reacher stopped on a corner. Glanced left and turned right, toward the shadows under the raised highway. Still relaxed. Raskin watched him across waist-high trash in an empty lot.

  "He's turned north," he whispered.

  "Toward?"

  "I don't know. The sports bar, maybe. "

  "OK," Linsky said. "We'll come north. We'll wait fifty yards up the street from the sports bar. Call me back in three minutes exactly. Meanwhile, don't let him out of your sight. "

  "OK," Raskin said. He clicked his phone off but kept it up at his ear and took a shortcut across the empty lot. Paused against a blank brick wall and peered around its corner. Reacher was still forty yards ahead, still in the center of the sidewalk, arms swinging, still moving fast. A confident man, Raskin thought. Perhaps overconfident.

  Linsky clicked off with Raskin and immediately dialed Chenko and Vladimir. Told them to rendezvous fifty yards north of the sports bar as fast as possible. Then he dialed the Zec.

  "We found him," he said.

  "Where?"

  "North part of downtown. "

  "Who's on him?"

  "Raskin. They're on the street, walking. "

  The Zec was quiet for a moment.

  "Wait until he settles somewhere," he said. "And then get Chenko to call the cops. He's got the accent. He can say he's a bartender or a desk clerk or whatever. "

  Raskin stayed forty yards back. He called Linsky again and kept the connection open. Reacher kept on walking, same stride, same pace. His clothes were dull and hard to see in the darkness. His neck and his hands were tan, but a little more visible. And he had a narrow stripe of pale skin around a fresh haircut, ghostly in the gloom. Raskin fixed his eyes on it. It was a white U-shaped glow, six feet off the ground, alternately rising and falling an inch with every step Reacher took. Idiot, Raskin thought. He should have used boot polish. That's what we'd have done in Afghanistan. Then he thought: Not that we ever had boot polish. Or haircuts.

  Then he stopped because Reacher stopped forty yards ahead. Raskin stepped back into a shadow and Reacher glanced right and turned left, into the mouth of a cross-street, out of sight behind a building.

  "He's gone west again," Raskin whispered into the phone.

  "Still good for the sports bar?" Linsky asked.

  "Or the motor court. "

  "Either one works for us. Move up a little. Don't lose him now. "

  Raskin sprinted ten paces and slowed at the turn. Pressed himself up against the corner of the building and peered around. And stared. Problem. Not with the view. The cross-street was long and wide and straight and lit at the far end by bright lights on the four-lane that ran north to the highway. So he had an excellent view. The problem was that Reacher was no longer part of it. He had disappeared. Completely.

 
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