Home > Persuader (Jack Reacher #7)(13)

Persuader (Jack Reacher #7)(13)
Author: Lee Child

Duffy brought me a pair of shoes. They were my size. The right one had a cavity carved into the heel. She gave me a wireless e-mail device that fit snugly into the space.

"That's why I'm glad you've got big feet," she said. "Made it easier to fit."

"Is it reliable?"

"It better be. It's new government issue. All departments are doing their concealed communications with it now."

"Great," I said. In my career more foul-ups had been caused by faulty technology than any other single cause.

"It's the best we can do," she said. "They'd find anything else. They're bound to search you. And the theory is if they're scanning for radio transmissions all they'll hear is a brief burst of modem screech. They'll probably think it's static."

They had three blood effects from a New York theatrical costumier. They were big and bulky. Each was a foot-wide square of Kevlar that was to be taped to the victim's chest. They had rubber gore reservoirs and radio receivers and firing charges and batteries.

"Wear loose shirts, guys," Eliot said.

The radio triggers were separate buttons I would have to tape to my right forearm. They were wired to batteries I would have to carry in my inside pocket. The buttons were big enough to feel through my coat and my jacket and my shirt, and I figured I would look OK supporting the Colt's weight with my left hand. We rehearsed the sequence. First, the pickup driver. That button would be nearest my wrist. I would trigger it with my index finger. Second, the pickup passenger. That button would be in the middle. Middle finger. Third, the old guy playing the cop. That button would be nearest my elbow, ring finger.

"You'll have to lose them afterward," Eliot said. "They'll search you for sure at Beck's house. You'll have to stop at a men's room or something and get rid of them."

We rehearsed endlessly in the motel lot. We laid out the road in miniature. By midnight we were as solid as we were ever going to get. We figured we would need all of eight seconds, beginning to end.

"You have the critical decision," Duffy said to me. "It's your call. If there's anything wrong when the Toyota is coming at you, anything at all, then you abort and you watch it go on by. We'll clean it up somehow. But you'll be firing three live rounds in a public place and I don't want any stray pedestrians getting hit, or cyclists, or joggers. You'll have less than a second to decide."

"Understood," I said, although I really didn't see any easy way of cleaning it up if it had already gotten that far. Then Eliot took a last couple of phone calls and confirmed they had a college security cruiser on loan and were putting a plausible old Nissan Maxima behind the mall's flagship department store. The Maxima had been impounded from a small-time marijuana grower in New York State. They still had tough drug laws down there. They were putting phony Massachusetts plates on it and filling it with the kind of junk a department store sales lady might be expected to haul around with her.

"Bed now," Duffy called. "Big day tomorrow."

That was the end of day ten.

Duffy brought doughnuts and coffee to my room for breakfast on day eleven, early. Her and me, alone. We went through the whole thing, one last time. She showed me photographs of the agent she had inserted fifty-nine days ago. She was a blonde thirty-year-old who had gotten a clerk's job with Bizarre Bazaar using the name Teresa Daniel. Teresa Daniel was petite and looked resourceful. I looked hard at the pictures and memorized her features, but it was another woman's face I was seeing in my mind.

"I'm assuming she's still alive," Duffy said. "I have to."

I said nothing.

"Try hard to get hired," she said. "We checked your recent history, the same way Beck might. You come out pretty vague. Plenty missing that would worry me, but I don't think it would worry him."

I gave the photographs back to her.

"I'm a shoo-in," I said. "The illusion reinforces itself. He's left shorthanded and he's under attack, all at the same time. But I'm not going to try too hard. In fact I'm going to come across a little reluctant. I think anything else would seem phony."

"OK," she said. "You've got seven objectives, of which numbers one, two, and three are, take a lot of care. We can assume these are extremely dangerous people."

I nodded. "We can do more than assume it. If Quinn's involved, we can absolutely guarantee it."

"So act accordingly," she said. "Gloves off, from the start."

"Yes," I said. I put my arm across my chest and started massaging my left shoulder with my right hand. Then I stopped myself, surprised. An army psychiatrist once told me that type of unconscious gesture represents feelings of vulnerability. It's defensive. It's about covering up and hiding. It's the first step toward curling yourself into a ball on the floor. Duffy must have read the same books, because she picked up on it and looked straight at me.

"You're scared of Quinn, aren't you?" she said.

"I'm not scared of anybody," I said. "But certainly I preferred it when he was dead."

"We can cancel," she said.

I shook my head. "I'd like the chance to find him, believe me."

"What went wrong with the arrest?"

I shook my head again.

"I won't talk about that," I said.

She was quiet for a beat. But she didn't push it. Just looked away and paused and looked back and started up with the briefing again. Quiet voice, efficient diction.

"Objective number four is find my agent," she said. "And bring her back to me."

I nodded.

"Five, bring me solid evidence I can use to nail Beck."

"OK," I said.

She paused again. Just a beat. "Six, find Quinn and do whatever you need to do with him. And then seven, get the hell out of there."

I nodded. Said nothing.

"We won't tail you," she said. "The kid might spot us. He'll be pretty paranoid by then. And we won't put a homing device on the Nissan, because they'd probably find it later. You'll have to e-mail us your location, soon as you know it."

"OK," I said.

"Weaknesses?" she asked.

I forced my mind away from Quinn.

"Three weaknesses that I can see," I said. "Two minor and one major. First minor one is that I'm going to blow the back window out of the van but the kid will have about ten minutes to realize the broken glass is in the wrong place and there isn't a corresponding hole in the windshield."

"So don't do it."

"I think I really need to. I think we need to keep the panic level high."

"OK, we'll put a bunch of boxes back there. You should have boxes anyway, if you're a delivery man. They might obscure his view. If they don't, just hope he doesn't put two and two together inside ten minutes."

I nodded. "And second, old man Beck is going to call the cops down here, sometime, somehow. Maybe the newspapers, too. He's going to be looking for corroborating information."

"We'll give the cops a script to follow. And they'll give the press something. They'll play ball for as long as they need to. What's the major weakness?"

"The bodyguards," I said. "How long can you hold them? You can't let them get near a phone, or they'll call Beck. So you can't formally arrest them. You can't put them in the system. You'll have to hold them incommunicado, completely illegally. How long can you keep that going?"

She shrugged. "Four or five days, tops. We can't protect you any longer than that. So be real fast."

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