Home > Persuader (Jack Reacher #7)(11)

Persuader (Jack Reacher #7)(11)
Author: Lee Child

"But why would I agree? It doesn't matter what he wants. What matters is what is logical for me to do. Because we don't have an audience of one. We have an audience of two. Richard Beck and Zachary Beck. Richard Beck there and then, and Zachary Beck later. He'll be looking at it in retrospect. We've got to convince him just as much."

"The kid might ask you not to go to the cops. Like last time."

"But why would I listen to him? If I was Mr. Normal the cops would be the first thing on my mind. I'd want to do everything strictly by the book."

"He would argue with you."

"And I would ignore him. Why would a smart and capable adult listen to a crazy kid? It's a hole. It's too cooperative, too purposeful, too phony. Too direct. Zachary Beck would rumble it in a minute."

"Maybe you get him in a car and you're being chased."

"I'd drive straight to a police station."

"Shit," Duffy said.

"It's a plan," I said. "But we need to get real."

I looked out of the window again. It was bright out there. I saw a lot of green stuff. Trees, bushes, distant wooded hillsides dusted with new leaves. In the corner of my eye I saw Eliot and Duffy looking down at the floor of the room. Saw the five guys sitting still. They looked like a capable bunch. Two of them were a little younger than me, tall and fair. Two were about my age, plain and ordinary. One was a lot older, stooped and gray. I thought long and hard. Kidnap, rescue, Beck's house. I need to be in Beck's house. I really do. Because I need to find Quinn. Think about the long game. I looked at the whole thing from the kid's point of view. Then I looked at it again, from his father's point of view.

"It's a plan," I said again. "But it needs perfecting. So I need to be the sort of person who wouldn't go to the cops." Then I paused. "No, better still, right in front of Richard Beck's eyes, I need to become the sort of person who can't go to the cops."

"How?" Duffy said.

I looked straight at her. "I'll have to hurt somebody. By accident, in the confusion. Another passerby. Some innocent party. Some kind of ambiguous circumstance. Maybe I run somebody over. Some old lady walking her dog. Maybe I even kill her. I panic and I run."

"Too difficult to stage," she said. "And not really enough to make you run, anyway. I mean, accidents happen, in circumstances like these."

I nodded. The room stayed quiet. I closed my eyes and thought some more and saw the beginnings of a sketchy scene take shape right there in my mind.

"OK," I said. "How about this? I'll kill a cop. By accident."

Nobody spoke. I opened my eyes.

"It's a grand slam," I said. "You see that? It's totally perfect. It puts Zachary Beck's mind at rest about why I didn't act normally and go to the cops. You don't go to the cops if you've just killed one of their own, even if it's an accident. He'll understand that. And it'll give me a reason to stay on at his house afterward. Which I'll need to do. He'll think I'm in hiding. He'll be grateful about the rescue and he's a criminal anyway so his conscience won't get in his way."

There were no objections. Just silence, and then a slow indefinable murmur of assessment, agreement, consent. I scoped it out, beginning to end. Think about the long game. I smiled.

"And it gets better," I said. "He might even hire me. In fact I think he'll be very tempted to hire me. Because we're creating the illusion that his family's suddenly under attack and he'll be down by two bodyguards and he'll know I'm better than they were anyway because they lost and I didn't. And he'll be happy to hire me because as long as he thinks I'm a cop-killer and he's sheltering me he'll think he owns me."

Duffy smiled, too.

"So let's go to work," she said. "We've got less than forty-eight hours."

The two younger guys were tagged as the kidnap team. We decided they would be driving a Toyota pickup from the DEA's stock of impounded vehicles. They would be using confiscated Uzis filled with nine-millimeter blanks. They would have a stun grenade filched from the DEA SWAT stores. Then we started to rehearse my role as the rescuer. Like all good scam artists we decided I should stick as close to the truth as possible, so I would be an ex-military drifter, in the right place at the right time. I would be armed, which in the circumstances would be technically illegal in Massachusetts, but which would be in character and plausible.

"I need a big old-fashioned revolver," I said. "I have to be carrying something appropriate for a citizen. And the whole thing has to be a big drama, beginning to end. The Toyota comes at me, I need to disable it. I need to shoot it up. So I need three real bullets and three blanks, in strict sequence. The three real bullets for the truck, the three blanks for the people."

"We could load any gun like that," Eliot said.

"But I'll need to see the chambers," I said. "Right before I fire. I won't fire a mixed load without a visual check. I need to know I'm starting in the right place. So I need a revolver. A big one, not some small thing, so I can see clearly."

He saw my point. Made a note. Then we nominated the old guy as the local cop. Duffy proposed he should just blunder into my field of fire.

"No," I said. "It has to be the right kind of mistake. Not just a careless shot. Beck senior needs to be impressed with me in the right kind of way. I need to do it deliberately, but recklessly. Like I'm a madman, but a madman who can shoot."

Duffy agreed and Eliot thought through a mental list of available vehicles and offered me an old panel van. Said I could be a delivery guy. Said it would give me a legitimate reason to be hanging out on the street. We made lists, on paper and in our heads. The two guys my age were sitting there without an assigned task, and they were unhappy about it.

"You're backup cops," I said. "Suppose the kid doesn't even see me shoot the first one? He might have fainted or something. You need to chase us in a car, and I'll take you out when I'm certain he's watching."

"Can't have backup cops," the old guy said. "I mean, what's going on here? Suddenly the whole place is swarming with cops for no good reason?"

"College cops," Duffy said. "You know, those rent-a-cop guys colleges have? They just happen to be there. I mean, where else would you find them?"

"Excellent," I said. "They can start from right inside the campus. They can control the whole thing by radio from the rear."

"How will you take them out?" Eliot asked me, like it was an issue.

I nodded. I saw the problem. I would have fired six shots by then.

"I can't reload," I said. "Not while I'm driving. Not with blanks. The kid might notice."

"Can you ram them? Force them off the road?"

"Not in a crummy old van. I'll have to have a second revolver. Preloaded, waiting inside the van. In the glove compartment, maybe."

"You're running around with two six-shooters?" the old guy said. "That's a little odd, in Massachusetts."

I nodded. "It's a weak point. We're going to have to risk a few."

"So I should be in plain clothes," the old guy said. "Like a detective. Shooting at a uniformed cop is beyond reckless. That would be a weak point, too."

"OK," I said. "Agreed. Excellent. You're a detective, and you pull out your badge, and I think it's a gun. That happens."

"But how do we die?" the old guy asked. "We just clutch our stomachs and fall over, like an old Wild West show?"

 

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