One Shot by Lee Child

Chapter 14


  The arrest was fast and efficient. It went down the usual way. Guns, shouting, handcuffs, Miranda. Reacher stayed silent throughout. He knew better than to speak. He had been a cop and he knew the kind of trouble that talking can get a guy into. And the kind of delay it can cause. Say something, and the cops have to stop to write it down. And Reacher couldn't afford for anyone to stop. Not right then.

  The trip to the station house was mercifully short. Not more than four blocks. Reacher guessed it made sense that an ex-cop like Franklin would pick an office location in the neighborhood he was accustomed to. He used the drive time to work on a strategy. He figured he would be taken straight to Emerson, which gave him a fifty percent chance of being put in a room with a bad guy.

  Or with a good guy.

  But he ended up a hundred percent sure he was in a room with a bad guy because Emerson and Alex Rodin were both there together. Reacher was hauled out of the squad car and hustled straight to Emerson's office. Emerson was behind the desk. Rodin was in front of it.

  Can't say a word, Reacher thought. But this has got to be real fast.

  Then he thought: Which one? Rodin? Or Emerson? Rodin was wearing a suit. Blue, summer weight, expensive, maybe the same one as on Monday. Emerson was in shirtsleeves. Playing with a pen. Bouncing it off his blotter, one end, then the other.

  Get on with it, Reacher thought.

  "You weren't so hard to find," Emerson said.

  Reacher said nothing. He was still handcuffed.

  "Tell us about the night Alexandra Dupree was killed," Rodin said.

  Reacher said nothing.

  "Tell us how it felt," Emerson said. "When her neck snapped. "

  Reacher said nothing.

  "The jury's going to hate you," Rodin said.

  Reacher said, "Phone call. "

  "You want to lawyer up?" Emerson said.

  Reacher said nothing.

  "Who's your lawyer?" Rodin asked.

  "Your daughter," Reacher said.

  "Want us to call her?" Emerson asked.

  "Maybe. Or maybe Rosemary Barr instead. "

  He watched their eyes.

  "The sister?" Rodin said.

  "You want us to call the sister?" Emerson said.

  One of you knows she ain't going to answer, Reacher thought.

  Which one?

  Nothing in their eyes.

  "Call Ann Yanni," he said.

  "From the TV?" Rodin said. "Why her?"

  "I get a phone call," Reacher said. "I don't have to explain anything. I say who, you dial the number. "

  "She'll be getting ready to go on the air. The local news is at six o'clock. "

  "So we'll wait," Reacher said. "I've got all the time in the world. "

  Which one of you knows that isn't true?

  They waited, but it turned out the wait wasn't long. Emerson placed the call to NBC and told Ann Yanni's assistant that the police department had arrested Jack Reacher and that Reacher was requesting Yanni's presence, reason unknown. It was a bizarre message. But Yanni was in Emerson's office less than thirty minutes later. She was a journalist on the scent of a story. She knew that network tomorrow was better than local today.

  "How can I help?" she asked.

  She had presence. She was a star in her market. And she was media. Both Emerson and Rodin looked a little intimidated. Not by her as an individual. But by what she represented.

  "I'm sorry," Reacher said to her. "I know you won't want to, and I know I said I would never tell, but under the circumstances you're going to have to confirm an alibi for me. No choice, I'm afraid. "

  He glanced at her. Saw her following his words. Saw confusion cross her face. She had no reaction. He kept his eyes on hers. No reaction.

  Help me out here, girl.

  One second.

  Two seconds.

  No reaction.

  Reacher held his breath. Get with the damn program, Yanni. One more second and it's all going to fall apart.

  No reaction.

  Then she nodded. She had caught on. Reacher breathed out. Good call. Professional skill. She was a person accustomed to hearing breaking news in her earpiece and repeating it live on air half a second later like she had known about it all her life.

  "What alibi?" Emerson said.

  Yanni glanced at him. Then at Rodin.

  "I thought this was about Jack Reacher," she said.

  "It is," Emerson said.

  "But this is Joe Gordon," she said. "At least, that's what he told me. "

  "He told you his name was Gordon?"

  "When I met him. "

  "Which was when?"

  "Two days ago. "

  "You've been running his picture on your show. "

  "That was his picture? It looked nothing like him. The hair was totally different. No similarity at all. "

  "What alibi?" Emerson said again.

  "For when?" Yanni asked.

  "The night the girl was killed. That's what we're talking about here. "

  Yanni said nothing.

  Rodin said, "Ma'am, if you know something, you need to tell us now. "

  "I'd rather not," Yanni said.

  Reacher smiled to himself. The way she said it absolutely guaranteed that Emerson and Rodin were a minute away from begging to hear the story. She was standing there, blushing on command all the way up to her temples, her back straight, her blouse open three buttons. She was a hell of an actress. Reacher figured maybe all news anchors were.

  "It's a question of evidence," Emerson said.

  "Obviously," Yanni said. "But can't you just take my word?"

  "For what?"

  "That he didn't do it. "

  "We need details," Rodin said.

  "I have to think of my reputation," Yanni said.

  "Your statement won't be made public if we drop the charges. "

  "Can you guarantee dropping the charges?"

  "Not before we hear your statement," Emerson said.

  "So it's a Catch- 22," Yanni said.

  "I'm afraid it is. "

  Don't push too far, Reacher thought. We don't have time.

  Yanni sighed. Looked down at the floor. Looked up, straight into Emerson's eyes, furious, embarrassed, magnificent.

  "We spent that night together," she said.

  "You and Reacher?"

  "Me and Joe Gordon. "

  Emerson pointed. "This man?"

  Yanni nodded. "That man. "

  "All night?"

  "Yes. "

  "From when to when?"

  "From about eleven-forty. When the news was over. Until I got paged the next morning when you guys found the body. "

  "Where were you?"

  Reacher closed his eyes. Recalled the conversation the night before in the parking garage. The car window, open an inch and a half. Had he told her?

  "The motor court," Yanni said. "His room. "

  "The clerk didn't say he saw you. "

  "Of course the clerk didn't see me. I have to think about things like that. "

  "Which room?"

  Had he told her?

  "Room eight," Yanni said.

  "He didn't leave the room during the night?"

  "No, he didn't. "

  "Not at all?"

  "No. "

  "How can you be sure?"

  Yanni looked away. "Because we didn't actually sleep a wink. "

  The office went quiet.

  "Can you offer any corroboration?" Emerson asked.

  "Like what?" Yanni asked back.

  "Distinguishing marks? That I can't see right now but that someone who had been in your position would have seen?"

  "Oh, please. "

  "It's the last question," Emerson said.

  Yanni said nothing. Reacher recalled switching on the Mustang's dome light and lifting
his shirt to reveal the tire iron. He moved his cuffed hands and laid them across his waistband.

  "Anything?" Emerson said.

  "It's important," Rodin said.

  "He has a scar," Yanni said. "Low down on his stomach. A horrible big thing. "

  Emerson and Rodin both turned and looked at Reacher. Reacher got to his feet. Grabbed a fold of fabric in both hands and pulled his shirt out of his pants. Lifted it.

  "OK," Emerson said.

  "What was that?" Rodin asked.

  "Part of a Marine sergeant's jawbone," Reacher said. "The medics figured it must have weighed about four ounces. It was traveling at five thousand feet per second away from the epicenter of a trinitrotoluene explosion. Just surfing along on the pressure wave, until it hit me. "

  He dropped his shirt back down. Didn't try to tuck it in. The handcuffs would have made that difficult.

  "Satisfied now?" he asked. "Have you embarrassed the lady enough?"

  Emerson and Rodin looked at each other. One of you knows for sure I'm innocent, Reacher thought. And I don't care what the other one thinks.

  "Ms. Yanni will have to put it in writing," Emerson said.

  "You type it, I'll sign it," Yanni said.

  Rodin looked straight at Reacher. "Can you offer corroboration?"

  "Like what?"

  "Something along the lines of your scar. But relating to Ms. Yanni. "

  Reacher nodded. "Yes, I could. But I won't. And if you ask again I'll knock your teeth down your throat. "

  Silence in the office. Emerson dug in his pocket and found a handcuff key. Turned suddenly and tossed it underarm through the air. Reacher's hands were cuffed but he was careful to lead with his right. He caught the key in his right palm, and smiled.

  "Bellantonio been talking to you?" he said.

  "Why did you give Ms. Yanni a false name?" Emerson asked.

  "Maybe I didn't," Reacher said. "Maybe Gordon is my real name. "

  He tossed the key back and stepped over and held his wrists out and waited for Emerson to unlock the cuffs.

  The Zec took the phone call two minutes later. A familiar voice, low and hurried.

  "It didn't work," it said. "He had an alibi. "

  "For real?"

  "Probably not. But we're not going to go there. "

  "So what next?"

  "Just sit tight. He can't be more than one step away now. In which case he'll be coming for you soon. So be locked and loaded and ready for him. "

  "They didn't fight very hard," Ann Yanni said. "Did they?" She started the Mustang's engine before Reacher even got his door closed.

  "I didn't expect them to," he said. "The innocent one knows the case was weak. And the guilty one knows putting me back on the street takes me off the board about as fast as putting me in a cell right now. "


  "Because they've got Rosemary Barr and they know I'll go find her. So they'll be waiting for me, ready to rock and roll. I'll be dead before morning. That's the new plan. Cheaper than jail. "

  They drove straight back to Franklin's office and ran up the outside staircase and found Franklin sitting at his desk. The lights were off and his face was bathed in the glow from his computer screen. He was staring at it blankly, like it was telling him nothing. Reacher broke the news about Rosemary Barr. Franklin went very still and glanced at the door. Then the window.

  "We were right here," he said.

  Reacher nodded. "Three of us. You, me, and Helen. "

  "I didn't hear anything. "

  "Me either," Reacher said. "They're really good. "

  "What are they going to do to her?"

  "They're going to make her give evidence against her brother. Some kind of a made-up story. "

  "Will they hurt her?"

  "That depends on how fast she caves. "

  "She's not going to cave," Yanni said. "Not in a million years. Don't you see that? She's totally dedicated to clearing her brother's name. "

  "Then they're going to hurt her. "

  "Where is she?" Franklin asked Reacher. "Best guess?"

  "Wherever they are," Reacher said. "But I don't know where that is. "

  She was in the upstairs living room, taped to a chair. The Zec was staring at her. He was fascinated by women. Once he had gone twenty-seven years without seeing one. The penal battalion he had joined in 1943 had had a few, but they were a small minority and they died fast. And then after the Great Patriotic War had been won, his nightmare progress through the Gulag had begun. In 1949 he had seen a woman peasant near the White Sea Canal. She was a stooped and bulky old crone two hundred yards away in a beet field. Then nothing, until in 1976 he saw a nurse riding a troika sled through the frozen wastes of Siberia. He was a quarryman then. He had come up out of the hole with a hundred other zecs and was walking home in a long ragged column down a long straight road. The nurse's sled was approaching on another road that ran at right angles. The land was flat and featureless and covered with snow. The zecs could see forever. They stood and watched the nurse drive a whole mile. Then they turned their heads as one as she passed through the crossroads and watched her through another mile. The guards denied them food that night as punishment for the unauthorized halt. Four men died, but the Zec didn't.

  "Are you comfortable?" he asked.

  Rosemary Barr said nothing. The one called Chenko had returned her shoe. He had crouched in front of her and fitted it to her foot like a store clerk. Then he had backed away and sat down next to the one called Vladimir, on the sofa. The one called Sokolov had stayed downstairs in a room full of surveillance equipment. The one called Linsky was pacing the room, white with pain. He had something wrong with his back.

  "When the Zec speaks, you should answer," the one called Vladimir said.

  Rosemary looked away. She was afraid of Vladimir. More so than the others. Vladimir was huge, and he gave off an air of depravity, like a smell.

  "Does she understand her position?" Linsky asked. The Zec smiled at him, and Linsky smiled back. It was a private joke between them. Any claim to rights or humane treatment in the camps was always met with a question: Do you understand your position? The question was always followed by a statement: You don't have a position. You are nothing to the Motherland. The first time Linsky had heard the question he had been about to reply, but the Zec had hauled him away. By that point the Zec had eighteen years under his belt, and the intervention was uncharacteristic. But clearly he had felt something for the raw youngster. He had taken the kid under his wing. They had been together ever since, through a long succession of locations neither of them could name. Many books had been written about the Gulag, and documents had been discovered, and maps had been made, but the irony was that those who had participated had no idea where they had been. Nobody had told them. A camp was a camp, with wire, huts, endless forest, endless tundra, endless work. What difference did a name make?

  Linsky had been a soldier and a thief. In the west of Europe or in America he would have served time, two years here, three years there, but during the Soviet Union, stealing was an ideological transgression. It showed an uneducated and antisocial preference for private property. Such a preference was answered with a swift and permanent removal from civilized society. In Linsky's case the removal had lasted from 1963 until civilized society had collapsed and Gorbachev had emptied the Gulag.

  "She understands her position," the Zec said. "And next comes acceptance. "

  Franklin called Helen Rodin. Ten minutes later she was back in his office. She was still mad at Reacher. That was clear. But she was too worried about Rosemary Barr to make a big deal out of it. Franklin stayed at his desk, one eye on his computer screen. Helen and Ann Yanni sat together at a table. Reacher stared out the window. The sky was darkening.

  "We should call someone," Helen said.

  "Like who?" Reacher asked.

  "My father. He's the good guy. "

bsp; Reacher turned around. "Suppose he is. What do we tell him? That we've got a missing person? He'll just call the cops, because what else can he do? And if Emerson's the bad guy, the cops will sit on it. Even if Emerson's the good guy, the cops will sit on it just the same. Missing adults don't get anyone very excited. Too many of them. "

  "But she's integral to our case. "

  "Their case is about her brother. So the cops will figure it's only natural she ran away. Her brother is a notorious criminal and she couldn't stand the shame. "

  "But you saw her get kidnapped. You could tell them. "

  "I saw a shoe. That's all I can tell anybody. And I've got no credibility here. I've been playing silly games for two days. "

  "So what do we do?"

  Reacher turned back to the window.

  "We take care of it ourselves," he said.


  "All we need is a location. We work through the woman who was shot, we get names, we get some kind of a context, we get a place. Then we go there. "

  "When?" Yanni asked.

  "Twelve hours," Reacher said. "Before dawn. They'll be working on some kind of a timetable. They want to take care of me first, and then they want to start in on Rosemary Barr. We need to get to her before they run out of patience. "

  "But that means you'll be showing up exactly when they're expecting you. "

  Reacher said nothing.

  "It's like walking into a trap," Yanni said.

  Reacher didn't answer that. Yanni turned to Franklin and said, "Tell us more about the woman who was shot. "

  "There's nothing more to tell," Franklin said. "I've been through everything forward and backward. She was very ordinary. "


  "All of them are back East. Where she came from. "


  "Two, basically. A co-worker and a neighbor. Neither of them is interesting. Neither of them is a Russian, for instance. "

  Yanni turned back to Reacher. "So maybe you're wrong. Maybe the third shot wasn't the money shot. "

  "It must have been," Reacher said. "Or why would he pause after it? He was double-checking he had a hit. "

  "He paused after the sixth, too. For good. "

  "He wouldn't wait that long. It could have gone completely out of control by then. People could have been jumping all over each other. "

  "But they weren't. "

  "He couldn't have predicted that. "

  "I agree," Franklin said. "A thing like that, you don't do it with your first or your last shot. "

  Then his eyes lost focus. He stared at the wall, like he wasn't seeing it.

  "Wait," he said.

  He glanced at his screen.

  "Something I forgot," he said.

  "What?" Reacher asked.

  "What you said about Rosemary Barr. Missing persons. "

  He turned back to his mouse and his keyboard and started clicking and typing. Then he hit his enter key and sat forward intently, like proximity would speed the process.

  "Last chance," he said.

  Reacher knew from television commercials that computers operated at all kinds of gigahertz, which he assumed was pretty fast. But even so, Franklin's screen stayed blank for a long, long time. There was a little graphic in the corner. It was rotating slowly. It implied a thorough and patient search through an infinite amount of data. It spun for minutes. Then it stopped. There was an electrostatic crackle from the monitor and the screen wiped down and redrew into a densely-printed document. Plain computer font. Reacher couldn't read it from where he was.

  The office went quiet.

  Franklin looked up.

  "OK," he said. "There you go. At last. Finally something that isn't ordinary. Finally we catch a break. "

  "What?" Yanni said.

  "Oline Archer reported her husband missing two months ago. "

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