Home > Persuader (Jack Reacher #7)(8)

Persuader (Jack Reacher #7)(8)
Author: Lee Child

"Which makes him huge," Eliot said. "If this guy from LA is prepared to fly all the way back east to meet with him, he's got to be a couple of rungs up the ladder. And anybody a couple of rungs above this LA guy is in the stratosphere, believe me. So Zachary Beck's a top boy, and he's fooling with us. Rug importer, drug importer. He's making jokes."

"I'm sorry," I said. "I never saw him before."

"Don't be sorry," Duffy said. She hitched forward on the chair. "It's better for us if he isn't the guy you saw. We already know about him. It's better for us if you saw one of his associates. We can try to get to him that way."

"You can't get to him head-on?"

There was a short silence. Seemed to me there was some embarrassment in it.

"We've got problems," Eliot said.

"Sounds like you've got probable cause against the LA player. And you've got photographs that put him side by side with this Beck guy."

"The photographs are tainted," Duffy said. "I made a mistake."

More silence.

"The garage was private property," she said. "It's under an office building. I didn't have a warrant. Fourth Amendment makes the pictures inadmissible."

"Can't you lie? Say you were outside the garage?"

"Physical layout makes that impossible. Defense counsel would figure it in a minute and the case would collapse."

"We need to know who you saw," Eliot said.

I didn't answer.

"We really need to know," Duffy said. She said it in the kind of soft voice that makes men want to jump tall buildings. But there was no artifice there. No pretense. She wasn't aware of how good she was sounding. She really needed to know.

"Why?" I asked.

"Because I need to put this right."

"Everybody makes mistakes."

"We sent an agent after Beck," she said. "Undercover. A woman. She disappeared."

Silence.

"When?" I asked.

"Seven weeks ago."

"You looked for her?"

"We don't know where to look. We don't know where Beck goes. We don't even know where he lives. He has no registered property. His house must be owned by some phantom corporation. It's a needle in a haystack."

"Haven't you tailed him?"

"We've tried. He has bodyguards and drivers. They're too good."

"For the DEA?"

"For us. We're on our own. The Justice Department disowned the operation when I screwed up."

"Even though there's an agent missing?"

"They don't know there's an agent missing. We put her in after they closed us down. She's off the books."

I stared at her.

"This whole thing is off the books," she said.

"So how are you working it?"

"I'm a team leader. Nobody's looking over my shoulder day to day. I'm pretending I'm working on something else. But I'm not. I'm working on this."

"So nobody knows this woman is missing?"

"Just my team," she said. "Seven of us. And now you."

I said nothing.

"We came straight here," she said. "We need a break. Why else would we fly up here on a Sunday?"

The room went quiet. I looked from her to Eliot and back to her. They needed me. I needed them. And I liked them. I liked them a lot. They were honest, likable people. They were like the best of the people I used to work with.

"I'll trade," I said. "Information for information. We'll see how we get along. And then we'll take it from there."

"What do you need?"

I told her I needed ten-year-old hospital records from a place called Eureka in California. I told her what kind of a thing to look for. I told her I would stay in Boston until she got back to me. I told her not to put anything on paper. Then they left and that was it for day two. Nothing happened on day three. Or day four. I hung around. I find Boston acceptable for a couple of days. It's what I call a forty-eight town. Anything more than forty-eight hours, and it starts to get tiresome. Of course, most places are like that for me. I'm a restless person. So by the start of day five I was going crazy. I was ready to assume they had forgotten all about me. I was ready to call it quits and get back on the road. I was thinking about Miami. It would be a lot warmer down there. But late in the morning the phone rang. It was her voice. It was nice to hear.

"We're on our way up," she said. "Meet you by that big statue of whoever it is on a horse, halfway around the Freedom Trail, three o'clock."

It wasn't a very precise rendezvous, but I knew what she meant. It was a place in the North End, near a church. It was springtime and too cold to want to go there without a purpose but I got there early anyway. I sat on a bench next to an old woman feeding house sparrows and rock doves with torn-up crusts of bread. She looked at me and moved to another bench. The birds swarmed around her feet, pecking at the grit. A watery sun was fighting rainclouds in the sky. It was Paul Revere on the horse.

Duffy and Eliot showed up right on time. They were wearing black raincoats all covered in little loops and buckles and belts. They might as well have worn signs around their necks saying Federal Agents from Washington D.C. They sat down, Duffy on my left and Eliot on my right. I leaned back and they leaned forward with their elbows on their knees.

"Paramedics fished a guy out of the Pacific surf," Duffy said. "Ten years ago, just south of Eureka, California. White male, about forty. He had been shot twice in the head and once in the chest. Small-caliber, probably.22s. Then they figure he was thrown off a cliff into the ocean."

"He was alive when they fished him out?" I asked, although I already knew the answer.

"Barely," she said. "He had a bullet lodged near his heart and his skull was broken. Plus one arm and both legs and his pelvis, from the fall. And he was half-drowned. They operated on him for fifteen straight hours. He was in intensive care for a month and in the hospital recuperating for another six."

"ID?"

"Nothing on him. He's in the records as a John Doe."

"Did they try to ID him?"

"No fingerprint match," she said. "Nothing on any missing-persons lists. Nobody came to claim him."

I nodded. Fingerprint computers tell you what they're told to tell you.

"What then?" I asked.

"He recovered," she said. "Six months had passed. They were trying to work out what to do with him when he suddenly discharged himself. They never saw him again."

"Did he tell them anything about who he was?"

"They diagnosed amnesia, certainly about the trauma, because that's almost inevitable. They figured he might be genuinely blank about the incident and the previous day or two. But they figured he must be able to remember things from before that, and they got the strong impression he was pretending not to. There's a fairly extensive case file. Psychiatrists, everything. They interviewed him regularly. He was extremely resolute. Never said a word about himself."

"What was his physical condition when he left?"

"Pretty fair. He had visible scars from the GSWs, that's about all."

"OK," I said. I leaned my head back and looked up at the sky.

"Who was he?"

"Your guess?" I said.

".22s to the head and chest?" Eliot said. "Dumped in the ocean? It was organized crime. An assassination. Some kind of hit man got to him."

 

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