Home > Persuader (Jack Reacher #7)(12)

Persuader (Jack Reacher #7)(12)
Author: Lee Child

"That's not convincing," Eliot said. "This whole thing has got to look exactly right. For Richard Beck's sake."

"We need Hollywood stuff," Duffy said. "Kevlar vests and condoms filled with fake blood that explode off of a radio signal."

"Can we get it?"

"From New York or Boston, maybe."

"We're tight for time."

"Tell me about it," Duffy said.

That was the end of day nine. Duffy wanted me to move into the motel and offered to have somebody drive me back to my Boston hotel for my luggage. I told her I didn't have any luggage and she looked at me sideways but didn't say anything. I took a room next to the old guy. Somebody drove out and got pizza. Everybody was running around and making phone calls. They left me alone. I lay on my bed and thought the whole thing through again, beginning to end, from my point of view. I made a list in my head of all the things we hadn't considered. It was a long list. But there was one item bothering me above all. Not exactly on the list. Kind of parallel to it. I got off my bed and went to find Duffy. She was out in the lot, hurrying back to her room from her car.

"Zachary Beck isn't the story here," I told her. "He can't be. If Quinn's involved, then Quinn's the boss. He wouldn't play second fiddle. Unless Beck is a worse guy than Quinn, and I don't even want to think about that."

"Maybe Quinn changed," she said. "He was shot twice in the head. Maybe that kind of rewired his brains. Diminished him, somehow."

I said nothing. She hurried away. I went back to my room.

Day ten started with the arrival of the vehicles. The old guy got a seven-year-old Chevy Caprice to act as his police unmarked. It was the one with the Corvette motor in it, from the final model year before General Motors stopped making them. It looked just right. The pickup was a big thing painted faded red. It had a bull bar on the front. I saw the younger guys talking about how they would use it. My ride was a plain brown panel van. It was the most anonymous truck I had ever seen. It had no side windows and two small rear windows. I checked inside for a glove compartment. It had one.

"OK?" Eliot asked me.

I slapped its side like van people do and it boomed faintly in response.

"Perfect," I said. "I want the revolvers to be big.44 Magnums. I want three heavy soft-nosed bullets and nine blanks. Make the blanks as loud as you can get."

"OK," he said. "Why soft-nose?"

"I'm worried about ricochets," I said. "I don't want to hurt anybody by accident. Soft-nose slugs will deform and stick to what they hit. I'm going to fire one into the radiator and two at the tires. I want you to pump the tires way high so they'll explode when I hit them. We've got to make it spectacular."

Eliot hurried away and Duffy came up to me.

"You'll need these," she said. She had a coat and a pair of gloves for me. "You'll look more realistic if you're wearing them. It'll be cold. And the coat will hide the gun."

I took them from her and tried on the coat. It fit pretty well. She was clearly a good judge of sizes.

"The psychology will be tricky," she said. "You're going to have to be flexible. The kid might be catatonic. You might need to coax some reaction out of him. But ideally he'll be awake and talking. In which case I think you need to show a little reluctance about getting yourself more and more involved. Ideally you need to let him talk you into driving him all the way home. But at the same time you need to be dominant. You need to keep events moving along so he doesn't have time to dwell on exactly what he's seeing."

"OK," I said. "In which case I'm going to change my ammunition requisition. I'm going to make the second bullet in the second gun a real one. I'll tell him to get down on the floor and then I'll blow out the window behind him. He'll think it was the college cops shooting at us. Then I'll tell him to get up again. It'll increase his sense of danger and it'll get him used to doing what I tell him and it'll make him a little happier to watch the college cops get it in the neck. Because I don't want him fighting me, trying to stop me. I might wreck the van and kill both of us."

"In fact you need to bond with him," she said. "He needs to speak well of you, later. Because I agree, getting hired on up there would hit the jackpot. It would give you access. So try to impress the kid. But keep it very subtle. You don't need him to like you. You just need to make him think you're a tough guy who knows what he's doing."

I went to find Eliot and then the two guys playing the college cops came to find me. We arranged that they would fire blanks at me first, then I would fire one blank at them, then I would shoot out the van's rear window, and then I would fire another blank, and finally I would fire my last three blanks in a spaced group. On the final shot they would blow out their own windshield with a real bullet from one of their own guns and then they would go sliding off the road like they had lost a tire or been hit.

"Don't get confused which load is which," one of them said.

"You either," I said back.

We had more pizza for lunch and then went out to cruise the target area. We parked a mile short and went over a couple of maps. Then we risked three separate passes in two cars right past the college gate. I would have preferred more time to study but we were worried about being conspicuous. We drove back to the motel in silence and regrouped in Eliot's room.

"Looks OK," I said. "Which way will they turn?"

" Maine is north of here," Duffy said. "We can assume he lives somewhere near Portland."

I nodded. "But I think they'll go south. Look at the maps. You get to the highway faster that way. And standard security doctrine is to get on wide busy roads as soon as possible."

"It's a gamble."

"They'll go south," I said.

"Anything else?" Eliot asked.

"I'd be nuts to stick with the van," I said. "Old man Beck will figure if I was doing this for real I'd ditch it and steal a car."

"Where?" Duffy asked.

"The map shows a mall next to the highway."

"OK, we'll stash one there."

"Spare keys under the bumper?" Eliot asked.

Duffy shook her head. "Too phony. We need this whole thing to be absolutely convincing. He'll have to steal it for real."

"I don't know how," I said. "I've never stolen a car."

The room went quiet.

"All I know is what I learned in the army," I said. "Military vehicles are never locked. And they don't have ignition keys. They start off a button."

"OK," Eliot said. "No problem is insuperable. We'll leave it unlocked. But you'll act like it is locked. You'll pretend to jimmy the door. We'll leave a load of wire and a bunch of coat hangers nearby. Maybe you could ask the kid to find something for you. Make him feel involved. It'll help the illusion. Then you screw around with it and, hey, the door pops open. We'll loosen the shroud on the steering column. We'll strip the right wires and only the right wires. You find them and touch them together and you're an instant bad guy."

"Brilliant," Duffy said.

Eliot smiled. "I do my best."

"Let's take a break," Duffy said. "Start again after dinner."

The final pieces fell into place after dinner. Two of the guys got back with the last of the equipment. They had a matched pair of Colt Anacondas for me. They were big brutal weapons. They looked expensive. I didn't ask where they got them from. They came with a box of real.44 Magnums and a box of.44 blanks. The blanks came from a hardware store. They were designed for a heavy-duty nail gun. The sort of thing that punches nails straight into concrete. I opened each Anaconda cylinder and scratched an X against one of the chambers with the tip of a nail scissor. A Colt revolver's cylinder steps around clockwise, which is different from a Smith amp; Wesson, which rotates counterclockwise. The X would represent the first chamber to be fired. I would line it up at the ten o'clock position where I could see it and it would step around and fall under the hammer with the first pull of the trigger.

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