The Hard Way by Lee Child



  REACHER STOPPED WHILE he was still on Bleecker and jammed his hands in his pockets and then restarted at a more appropriate pace. He turned left onto Sixth like a man walking home. Maybe after a busy day at work, maybe planning a stop in a bar, maybe with grocery shopping on his mind. Just blending in, which he was surprisingly good at, given that he was always a head taller than anyone else around him. The height advantage was a mixed blessing for surveillance. It made him theoretically conspicuous. But it meant he could see farther than the average guy. Simple trigonometry. He stayed in the middle of the sidewalk and looked straight ahead and put the green Jaguar firmly in his peripheral vision. Checked left. Nothing. Checked right, over the Jaguar's roof.

  And saw a guy six feet from the driver's door.

  It was the same guy he had seen the very first night. He was absolutely sure of that. Same stature, same posture, same movements, same clothes. White, a little sunburned, lean, chiseled, clean-shaven, jaw clamped, not smiling, maybe forty years old. Calm, focused, intent. Neat and quick, dodging traffic, just into his final two strides before reaching the car. Fluid, economical movements. The guy pulled the door and slid into the seat and started the engine and clipped his belt and took a long glance back over his shoulder at the traffic. Then he pulled out neatly into a gap and took off north. Reacher kept on walking south but turned his head to watch him go. The guy flashed past, out of sight.

  Six seconds, beginning to end. Maybe less.

  And for what?

  Just a white guy, average height, average weight, dressed like every other off-duty white guy in the city. Jeans, shirt, sneakers, ball cap. Maybe forty. Unremarkable in every way. Description? Nothing to say, except: Just a guy.

  Reacher glanced south at the river of traffic. There were no free cabs coming. None at all. So he turned again and jogged back to the corner of Bleecker to see if Burke had waited for him. But Burke hadn't. So Reacher set out walking. He was too frustrated to take the subway. He needed to walk it off. He charged north on Sixth, fast and furious, and people moved out of his way like he was radioactive.

  Twenty minutes and twenty blocks later he saw a Staples store on the opposite sidewalk. Red and white signs. Windows full of office supply bargains. He dodged cars and crossed over to check it out. It was a big place. He didn't know which branch Carter Groom had taken Kate Lane to, but he figured chains carried the same stuff everywhere. He went inside and passed a corral made from inch-thick chrome bars where shopping trolleys were racked together. Beyond that on the left were the checkout registers. Beyond the trolleys on the right was a print shop full of industrial-strength photocopiers. In front of him were about twenty narrow aisles with shelves that reached the ceiling. They were piled high with an intimidating array of stuff. He started at the left front corner and zigzagged all the way through the store to the rear of the last aisle on the right. The biggest thing he saw was a desk. The smallest, either a thumbtack or a paperclip, depending on whether he judged by size or weight. He saw paper, computers, printers, toner cartridges, pens, pencils, envelopes, file boxes, plastic crates, parcel tape. He saw things he had never seen before. Software for designing houses and filing taxes. Label printers. Cell phones that took video pictures and sent e-mail.

  He walked back to the front of the store with absolutely no idea at all of what Kate Lane might have been looking for.

  He stood in a daze and watched a photocopier at work. It was a machine as big as a launderette dryer and it was spitting copies out so hard and so fast that it was rocking back and forth on its feet. And costing some customer a fortune. That was clear. A sign overhead said that photocopying cost between four cents and two dollars a sheet, depending on the quality of the paper and the choice between black and white and color. A lot of money, potentially. Opposite the print shop corral was a display of inkjet cartridges. They were expensive, too. Reacher had no idea what they were for. Or what they did. Or why they cost so much. He pushed past a line of people at a checkout desk and headed for the street.

  Another twenty minutes and twenty blocks later he was at Bryant Park, eating a hot dog from a street vendor. Twenty minutes and twenty blocks after that he was in Central Park, drinking a bottle of still water from another street vendor. Twelve more blocks north he was still in Central Park, directly opposite the Dakota, under a tree, stopped dead, face-to-face with Anne Lane, Edward Lane's first wife.



  THE FIRST THING Anne Lane did was tell Reacher he was wrong.

  "You saw Lane's photograph of her," she said.

  He nodded.

  "We were very alike," she said.

  He nodded again.

  "Anne was my sister," she said.

  "I'm sorry," he said. "I'm sorry for staring. And I'm sorry for your loss."

  "Thank you," the woman said.

  "Were you twins?"

  "I'm six years younger," the woman said. "Which means right now I'm the same age as Anne was in that photograph. Like a virtual twin, maybe."

  "You look exactly like her."

  "I try to," the woman said.

  "It's uncanny."

  "I try very hard."


  "Because it feels like I'm keeping her alive. Because I couldn't, back when it mattered."

  "How could you have kept her alive?"

  "We should talk," the woman said. "My name is Patti Joseph."

  "Jack Reacher."

  "Come with me," the woman said. "We have to double back. We can't go too near the Dakota."

  She led him south through the park, to the exit at 66th Street. Across to the far sidewalk. Then north again, and into the lobby of a building at 115 Central Park West.

  "Welcome to the Majestic," Patti Joseph said. "Best place I ever lived. And just wait until you see where my apartment is."

  Reacher saw where it was five minutes later, after a walk down a corridor, and an elevator ride, and another walk down another corridor. Patti Joseph's apartment was on the Majesties seventh floor, north side. Its living room window looked out over 72nd Street, directly at the Dakota's entrance. There was a dining chair placed in front of the sill, as if the sill was a desk. On the sill was a notebook. And a pen. And a Nikon camera with a long lens, and a pair of Leica 10x42 binoculars.

  "What do you do here?" Reacher asked.

  "First tell me what you do there," Patti said.

  "I'm not sure I can."

  "Do you work for Lane?"

  "No, I don't."

  Patti Joseph smiled.

  "I didn't think you did," she said. "I told Brewer, you're not one of them. You're not like them. You weren't Special Forces, were you?"

  "How did you know?"

  "You're too big. You wouldn't have made it through the endurance hazing. Big men never do."

  "I was an MP."

  "Did you know Lane in the service?"

  "No, I didn't."

  Patti Joseph smiled again.

  "I thought not," she said. "Otherwise you wouldn't be there."

  "Who is Brewer?"

  "NYPD." She pointed at the notebook and the pen and the camera and the binoculars. A big, sweeping gesture. "I do all this for him."

  "You're watching Lane and his guys? For the cops?"

  "For myself, mostly. But I check in."


  "Because hope springs eternal."

  "Hope of what?"

  "That he'll slip up, and I'll get something on him."

  Reacher stepped closer to the window and glanced at the notebook. The handwriting was neat. The last entry read: 2014 hrs. Burke returns alone, no bag, in black BMW OSC-23, enters TDA.

  "TDA?" Reacher asked.

  "The Dakota Apartments," Patti said. "It's the building's official name."

  "You ever see Yoko?"

  "All the time."

  "You know Burke by name?"

  "Burke was around when Anne was there."

  The la
st-but-one entry read: 1859 hrs. Burke and Venti leave TDA in black BMW OSC-23, with bag, Venti concealed in rear.

  "Venti?" Reacher asked.

  "That's what I've been calling you. Like a code name."


  "Venti is the largest cup that Starbucks sells. Bigger than the others."

  "I like coffee," Reacher said.

  "I could make some."

  Reacher turned away from the window. The apartment was a small one-bedroom. Plain, neat, painted. Probably worth the best part of a million bucks.

  "Why are you showing me all this?" he asked.

  "A recent decision," she said. "I decided to watch for new guys, and waylay them, and warn them."

  "About what?"

  "About what Lane is really like. About what he did."

  "What did he do?"

  "I'll make coffee," Patti said.

  There was no stopping her. She ducked into a small pass-through kitchen and started fiddling with a machine. Pretty soon Reacher could smell coffee. He wasn't thirsty. He had just drunk a whole bottle of water. But he liked coffee. He figured he could stay for a cup.

  Patti called out, "No cream, no sugar, right?"

  How did you know that?"

  "I trust my instincts,' she said.

  And I trust mine, Reacher thought, although he wasn't entirely sure what they were telling him right then.

  "I need you to get to the point," he said.

  "OK," Patti Joseph said. "I will." And then she said: "Anne wasn't kidnapped five years ago. That was just a cover story. Lane murdered her."



  PATTI JOSEPH BROUGHT Jack Reacher black coffee in a huge white Wedgwood mug. Twenty ounce. Vend. She set it on an oversized coaster and turned her back on him and sat on the dining chair at the window. Picked up the pen in her right hand and the binoculars in her left. They looked heavy. She held them the way a shot putter holds the big iron ball, balanced on her open palm, close to her neck.

  "Edward Lane is a cold man," she said. "He demands loyalty and respect and obedience. He needs those things, like a junkie needs a fix. That's what this whole mercenary venture is about, really. He couldn't bear losing his command position, when he left the military. So he decided to re-create it all over again. He needs to give orders and have them obeyed. Like you or I need to breathe. He's borderline mentally ill, I think. Psychotic."

  "And?" Reacher said.

  "He ignores his stepdaughter. Have you noticed that?"

  Reacher said nothing. He didn't mention Jade had been taken until later, he thought. He had her cropped out of the -picture in the living room.

  "My sister Anne wasn't very obedient," Patti said. "Nothing outrageous. Nothing unreasonable. But Edward Lane ran the marriage like a military operation. Anne couldn't handle it. And the more she chafed, the more Lane demanded discipline. It became his fetish."

  "What did she see in him in the first place?"

  "He can be charismatic. He's strong and silent. And intelligent, in a narrow way."

  "What was she before?"

  "A model."

  Reacher said nothing.

  "Yes," Patti said. "Just like the next one."

  "What happened?"

  "Between them they drove the marriage on the rocks. It was inevitable, I guess. One day she told me she wanted a divorce. I was all in favor of that, of course. It was the best thing for her. But she tried to do the whole drag-out knock-down thing. Alimony, division of assets, the whole nine yards. Which was the worst possible thing she could have done. I knew it was a mistake. I told her just to get the hell out while she still could. But she had brought money to the relationship. Lane had used it for part of his initial stake. Anne wanted her share back. But Lane couldn't even handle the insubordination of his wife wanting out of the marriage. To be made to give her money as well was out of the question for him. And it would have been a public humiliation, because he would have had to go out and find another investor. So he went completely postal. He faked a kidnapping and had her killed."

  Silence for a moment.

  "The police were involved," Reacher said. "The FBI, too. There must have been a certain level of scrutiny."

  Patti turned around to face the room. Smiled, sadly.

  "Here we go," she said. "We've reached the point where the little sister is sounding a little crazy and obsessed. But obviously Lane planned it well. He made it seem very real."


  "His men. He employs a bunch of killers. They're all used to obeying orders. And they're all smart. They all know how to do stuff like this. And they aren't virgins. Every single one of them has been out on covert operations. And probably every single one of them has killed before, up close and personal."

  Reacher nodded. No question about it. Every one of them has. Many times.

  "You got any particular suspects in mind?" he asked.

  "None of the guys you've seen," Patti said. "Nobody who's still in the

  A-team. I don't think the dynamic would permit that. Not as time went by. I don't think it would be sustainable, psychologically. But I don't think he would have used B-teamers. He would have needed

  people he could have trusted completely."

  "So who?"

  "A-team guys who aren't around anymore."

  "Who would be in that category?"

  "There were two," Patti said. "A guy called Hobart and a guy called Knight."

  "Why aren't they around anymore? Why would two trusted A-teamers just up and leave?"

  "Shortly after Anne died there was an operation overseas somewhere. Apparently it went bad. Two men didn't come back. Those two."

  "That would be a coincidence," Reacher said. "Wouldn't it? The two guilty men were the two who didn't come back?"

  "I think Lane made sure they didn't come back. He needed to tidy
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