Home > Persuader (Jack Reacher #7)(6)

Persuader (Jack Reacher #7)(6)
Author: Lee Child

"Do you need anything?" Elizabeth Beck asked.

I could think of a lot of things I needed. But I just shook my head.

"I'm kind of tired," I said. "Long day. I really need a nap."

She smiled briefly, like she was pleased, like having her own personal cop-killer asleep somewhere would relieve her of a social pressure.

"Of course," she said. "Duke will show you to a room."

She looked at me for a second longer. Underneath the strain and the pallor she was a handsome woman. She had fine bones and good skin. Thirty years ago she must have been fighting them off with a stick. She turned away and disappeared into the depths of the house. I turned to the guy in the suit. I assumed he was Duke.

"When do I get the guns back?" I asked.

He didn't answer. Just pointed me to the staircase and followed me up. Pointed to the next staircase and we came out on the third floor. He led me to a door and pushed it open. I went in and found a plain square room paneled with oak. There was heavy old furniture in it. A bed, an armoire, a table, a chair. There was an Oriental carpet on the floor. It looked thin and threadbare. Maybe it was a priceless old item. Duke pushed past me and walked across it and showed me where the bathroom was. He was acting like a bellboy in a hotel. He pushed past me again and headed back to the door.

"Dinner's at eight," he said. Nothing more.

He stepped out and closed the door. I didn't hear a sound but when I checked I found it was locked from the outside. There was no keyhole on the inside. I stepped to the window and looked out at the view. I was at the back of the house and all I could see was ocean. I was facing due east and there was nothing between me and Europe. I looked down. Fifty feet below were rocks with waves foaming all around them. The tide looked like it was coming in.

I stepped back to the door and put my ear against it and listened hard. Heard nothing. I scanned the ceiling and the cornices and the furniture, very carefully, inch by inch. Nothing there. No cameras. I didn't care about microphones. I wasn't going to make any noise. I sat on the bed and took my right shoe off. Flipped it over and used my fingernails to pull a pin out of the heel. Swiveled the heel rubber like a little door and turned the shoe the right way up and shook it. A small black plastic rectangle fell out on the bed and bounced once. It was a wireless e-mail device. Nothing fancy. It was just a commercial product, but it had been reprogrammed to send only to one address. It was about the size of a large pager. It had a small cramped keyboard with tiny keys. I switched the power on and typed a short message. Then I pressed send now.

The message said: I'm in.

Chapter 2

Truth is by that point I had been in for eleven whole days, since a damp shiny Saturday night in the city of Boston when I saw a dead man walk across a sidewalk and get into a car. It wasn't a delusion. It wasn't an uncanny resemblance. It wasn't a double or a twin or a brother or a cousin. It was a man who had died a decade ago. There was no doubt about it. No trick of the light. He looked older by the appropriate number of years and was carrying the scars of the wounds that had killed him.

I was walking on Huntington Avenue with a mile to go to a bar I had heard about. It was late. Symphony Hall was just letting out. I was too stubborn to cross the street and avoid the crowd. I just threaded my way through it. There was a mass of well-dressed fragrant people, most of them old. There were double-parked cars and taxis at the curb. Their engines were running and their windshield wipers were thumping back and forth at irregular intervals. I saw the guy step out of the foyer doors on my left. He was wearing a heavy cashmere overcoat and carrying gloves and a scarf. He was bareheaded. He was about fifty. We almost collided. I stopped. He stopped. He looked right at me. We got into one of those crowded-sidewalk things where we both hesitated and then both started moving and then both stopped again. At first I thought he didn't recognize me. Then there was a shadow in his face. Nothing definitive. I held back and he walked across in front of me and climbed into the rear seat of a black Cadillac DeVille waiting at the curb. I stood there and watched as the driver eased out into the traffic and pulled away. I heard the hiss of the tires on the wet pavement.

I got the plate number. I wasn't panicking. I wasn't questioning anything. I was ready to believe the evidence of my own eyes. Ten years of history was overturned in a second. The guy was alive. Which gave me a huge problem.

That was day one. I forgot all about the bar. I went straight back to my hotel and started calling half-forgotten numbers from my Military Police days. I needed somebody I knew and trusted, but I had been out for six years by then and it was late on a Saturday night so the odds were against me. In the end I settled for somebody who claimed he had heard of me, which might or might not have made a difference to the eventual outcome. He was a warrant officer named Powell.

"I need you to trace a civilian plate," I told him. "Purely as a favor."

He knew who I was, so he didn't give me any grief about not being able to do it for me. I gave him the details. Told him I was pretty sure it was a private registration, not a livery car. He took my number and promised to call me back in the morning, which would be day two.

He didn't call me back. He sold me out instead. I think in the circumstances anybody would have. Day two was a Sunday and I was up early. I had room service for breakfast and sat waiting for the call. I got a knock on the door instead. Just after ten o'clock. I put my eye to the peephole and saw two people standing close together so they would show up well in the lens. One man, one woman. Dark jackets. No overcoats. The man was carrying a briefcase. They both had some kind of official IDs held up high and tilted so they would catch the hallway light.

"Federal agents," the man called, just loud enough for me to hear him through the door.

In a situation like that it doesn't work to pretend you're not in. I'd been the guys in the hallway often enough. One of them stays right there and the other goes down to get a manager with a passkey. So I just opened up and stood back to let them in.

They were wary for a moment. They relaxed as soon as they saw I wasn't armed and didn't look like a maniac. They handed over their IDs and shuffled around politely while I deciphered them. At the top they said: United States Department of Justice. At the bottom they said: Drug Enforcement Administration. In the middle were all kinds of seals and signatures and watermarks. There were photographs and typed names. The man was listed as Steven Eliot, one l like the old poet. April is the cruelest month. That was for damn sure. The photograph was a pretty good likeness. Steven Eliot looked somewhere between thirty and forty and was thickset and dark and a little bald and had a smile that looked friendly in the picture and even better in person. The woman was listed as Susan Duffy. Susan Duffy was a little younger than Steven Eliot. She was a little taller than him, too. She was pale and slender and attractive and had changed her hair since her photograph was taken.

"Go ahead," I said. "Search the room. It's a long time since I had anything worth hiding from you guys."

I handed back their IDs and they put them away in their inside pockets and made sure they moved their jackets enough to let me see their weapons. They had them in neat shoulder rigs. I recognized the ribbed grip of a Glock 17 under Eliot's armpit. Duffy had a 19, which is the same thing only a little smaller. It was snug against her right breast. She must have been left-handed.

"We don't want to search the room," she said.

"We want to talk about a license plate," Eliot said.

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