Home > Persuader (Jack Reacher #7)(14)

Persuader (Jack Reacher #7)(14)
Author: Lee Child

"I plan to be," I said. "How long will the battery last on my e-mail thing?"

"About five days," she said. "You'll be out by then. We can't give you a charger. It would be too suspicious. But you can use a cell phone charger, if you can find one."

"OK," I said.

She just looked at me. There was nothing more to say. Then she moved close and kissed me on the cheek. It was sudden. Her lips were soft. They left a dusting of doughnut sugar on my skin.

"Good luck," she said. "I don't think we've missed anything."

But we had missed a lot of things. They were glaring errors in our thinking and they all came back to haunt me.

Chapter 3

Duke the bodyguard came back to my room five minutes before seven in the evening, which was way too early for dinner. I heard his footsteps outside and a quiet click as the lock turned. I was sitting on the bed. The e-mail device was back in my shoe and my shoe was back on my foot.

"Get a nap, asshole?" he asked.

"Why am I locked up?" I asked back.

"Because you're a cop-killer," he said.

I looked away. Maybe he had been a cop himself, before he went private. Lots of ex-cops wind up in the security business, as consultants or private eyes or bodyguards. Certainly he had some kind of an agenda, which could be a problem for me. But it meant he was buying Richard Beck's story without question, which was the upside. He looked at me for a second with nothing much in his face. Then he led me out of the room and down the two flights of stairs to the ground floor and through dark passageways toward the side of the house that faced north. I could smell salt air and damp carpet. There were rugs everywhere. Some places they were laid two-deep on the floor. They glowed with muted colors. He stopped in front of a door and pushed it open and stepped back so I was channeled into a room. It was large and square and paneled with dark oak. Rugs all over the floor. There were small windows in deep recesses. Darkness and rock and gray ocean outside. There was an oak table. My two Colt Anacondas were lying on it, unloaded. Their cylinders were open. There was a man at the head of the table. He was sitting in an oak chair with arms and a tall back. He was the guy from Susan Duffy's surveillance photographs.

In the flesh he was mostly unremarkable. Not big, not small. Maybe six feet, maybe two hundred pounds. Gray hair, not thin, not thick, not short, not long. He was about fifty. He was wearing a gray suit made out of expensive cloth cut without any attempt at style. His shirt was white and his tie was no color at all, like gasoline. His hands and face were pale, like his natural habitat was underground parking garages at night, hawking samples of something from his Cadillac's trunk.

"Sit down," he said. His voice was quiet and strained, like it was all high up in his throat. I sat opposite him at the far end of the table.

"I'm Zachary Beck," he said.

"Jack Reacher," I said.

Duke closed the door gently and leaned his bulk against it from the inside. The room went quiet. I could hear the ocean. It wasn't a rhythmic wave sound like you hear at the beach. It was a continuous random crashing and sucking of surf on the rocks. I could hear pools draining and gravel rattling and breakers coming in like explosions. I tried to count them. People say every seventh wave is a big one.

"So," Beck said. He had a drink on the table in front of him. Some kind of amber liquid in a short heavy glass. Oily, like scotch or bourbon. He nodded to Duke. Duke picked up a second glass. It had been waiting there for me on a side table. It had the same oily amber liquid in it. He carried it awkwardly with his finger and thumb right down at the base. He walked across the room and bent a little to place it carefully in front of me. I smiled. I knew what it was for.

"So," Beck said again.

I waited.

"My son explained your predicament," he said. It was the same phrase his wife had used.

"The law of unintended consequences," I said.

"It presents me with difficulties," he said. "I'm just an ordinary businessman, trying to work out where my responsibilities lie."

I waited.

"We're grateful, naturally," he said. "Please don't misunderstand that."

"But?"

"There are legal issues, aren't there?" He said it with a little annoyance in his voice, like he was being victimized by complexities beyond his control.

"It's not rocket science," I said. "I need you to turn a blind eye. At least temporarily. Like one good turn deserves another. If your conscience can accommodate that kind of a thing."

The room went quiet again. I listened to the ocean. I could hear a full spectrum of sounds out there. I could hear brittle seaweed dragging on granite and a drawn-out undertow sucking backward toward the east. Zachary Beck's gaze was moving all over the place. He was looking at the table, then at the floor, then into space. His face was narrow. Not much of a jaw. His eyes were set fairly close together. His brow was lined with concentration. His lips were thin and his mouth was pursed. His head was moving a little. The whole thing was a reasonable facsimile of an ordinary businessman struggling with weighty issues.

"Was it a mistake?" he asked.

"The cop?" I said. "In retrospect, obviously. At the time, I was just trying to get the job done."

He spent a little more time thinking, and then he nodded.

"OK," he said. "In the circumstances, we might be willing to help you out. If we can. You did a great service for the family."

"I need money," I said.

"Why?"

"I'm going to need to travel."

"When?"

"Right now."

"Is that wise?"

"Not really. I'd prefer to wait here a couple of days until the initial panic is over. But I don't want to push my luck with you."

"How much money?"

"Five thousand dollars might do it."

He said nothing to that. Just started up with the gazing thing again. This time, there was a little more focus in his eyes.

"I've got some questions for you," he said. "Before you leave us. If you leave us. Two issues are paramount. First, who were they?"

"Don't you know?"

"I have many rivals and enemies."

"That would go this far?"

"I'm a rug importer," he said. "I didn't intend to be, but that's the way things worked out. Possibly you think I just deal with department stores and interior decorators, but the reality is I deal with all kinds of unsavory characters in various foreign hellholes where enslaved children are forced to work eighteen-hour days until their fingers bleed. Their owners are all convinced I'm ripping them off and raping their cultures, and the truth is I probably am, although no more than they are. They aren't fun companions. I need a certain toughness to prosper. And the point is, so do my competitors. This is a tough business all around. So between my suppliers and my competitors I can think of half a dozen separate people who would kidnap my son to get at me. After all, one of them did, five years ago, as I'm sure my son told you."

I said nothing.

"I need to know who they were," he said, like he really meant it. So I paused a beat and recounted the whole event for him, second by second, yard by yard, mile by mile. I described the two tall fair-haired DEA guys in the Toyota accurately and in great detail.

"They mean nothing to me," he said.

I didn't answer.

"Did you get the Toyota 's license plate?" he asked.

 

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