loading...
Home > Bad Luck and Trouble (Jack Reacher #11)(8)

Bad Luck and Trouble (Jack Reacher #11)(8)
Author: Lee Child

"Get cell phone numbers, too," Reacher called. "For the others."

Neagley covered the phone. "He's been on that for three days. It isn't easy." Then she hung up and walked to the window. Looked out and down at the people parking cars.

"So now we wait," she said.

They waited less than twenty minutes and then one of Neagley's laptops pinged to announce an e-mail incoming from Chicago.

10

The e-mail from Neagley's guy in Chicago contained New Age's address, courtesy of UPS. Or actually, two addresses. One in Colorado, one in East LA.

"Makes sense," she said. "Distributed manufacture. Safer that way. In case of attack."

"Bullshit," Reacher said. "It's about two lots of senators. Two lots of pork. Republicans up there, Democrats down here, they get their snouts in the trough both ways around."

"Swan wouldn't have gone there if that was all they were into."

Reacher nodded. "Maybe not."

Neagley opened a map and they checked the East LA address. It was out past Echo Park, past Dodger Stadium, somewhere in the no man's land between South Pasadena and East LA proper.

"That's a long way," Neagley said. "It could take forever. Rush hour has started."

"Already?"

"Rush hour in LA started thirty years ago. It'll finish when the oil runs out. Or the oxygen. But whatever, we won't make it over there before they close. So it might be better to save New Age for tomorrow and go see Mrs. Franz today."

"Like you said in the first place. You're playing me like a violin."

"She's closer, is all. And important."

"Where is she?"

"Santa Monica."

"Franz lived in Santa Monica?"

"Not on the ocean. But still, I bet it's nice."

It was nice. Way nicer than it could have been. It was a small bungalow on a small street trapped halfway between the 10 and the Santa Monica airport, about two miles inland. On the face of it, not a prime real estate location. But it was a beautifully presented house. Neagley drove past it twice, looking for a place to park. It was a tiny symmetrical structure. Two bay windows with the front door between them. An overhanging roof with a front porch below. Twin rocking chairs on the porch. Some stone, some Tudor beams, some Arts and Crafts influences, some Frank Lloyd Wright, Spanish tiles. A real confusion of styles in one very small building, but it worked. It had a lot of charm. And it was totally immaculate. The paint was perfect. It gleamed. The windows were clean. They shone. The yard was tidy. Green lawn, clipped. Bright flowers, no weeds. Short blacktop driveway, smooth as glass and swept clean. Calvin Franz had been a thorough and meticulous man, and Reacher felt he could see an expression of his old friend's whole personality displayed right there in a little piece of real estate.

Eventually a pretty lady two streets away pulled her Toyota Camry out of a curbside spot and Neagley swerved the Mustang right in after her. She locked it up and they walked back together. It was late afternoon but still faintly warm. Reacher could smell the ocean.

He asked, "How many widows have we been to see?"

"Too many," Neagley said.

"Where do you live?"

"Lake Forest, Illinois."

"I've heard of that. It's supposed to be a nice place."

"It is."

"Congratulations."

"I worked hard for it."

They turned together into Franz's street, and then into his driveway. They slowed a little on the short walk to the door. Reacher wasn't sure what they were going to find. In the past he had dealt with widows a lot fresher than one of seventeen days' vintage. Very often they hadn't even known they were widows until he had shown up and told them they were. He wasn't sure what difference the seventeen days were going to make. Didn't know where in the process she was going to be.

"What's her name?" he asked.

"Angela," Neagley said.

"OK."

"The kid is called Charlie. A boy."

"OK."

"Four years old."

"OK."

They stepped up on the porch and Neagley found a bell push and laid a fingertip on it, gently, briefly, respectfully, as if the electric circuit could sense deference. Reacher heard the sound of a muted bell inside the house, and then nothing. He waited. About a minute and a half later the door was opened. Apparently by nobody. Then Reacher looked down and saw a little boy stretching up to the handle. The handle was high and the boy was small and his stretch was so extreme that the arc of the door's travel was pulling him off his tiptoes.

"You must be Charlie," Reacher said.

"I am," the boy said.

"I was a friend of your dad's."

"My dad's dead."

"I know. I'm very sad about that."

"Me too."

"Is it OK to be opening the door all by yourself?"

"Yes," the boy said. "It's OK."

He looked exactly like Calvin Franz. The resemblance was uncanny. The face was the same. The body shape was the same. The short legs, the low waist, the long arms. The shoulders were just skin and bone under a child's T-shirt but somehow they already hinted at the simian bulk they would carry later. The eyes were Franz's own, exactly, dark, cool, calm, reassuring. Like the boy was saying, Don't worry, everything will turn out fine.

Neagley asked him, "Charlie, is your mom home?"

The boy nodded.

"She's in back," he said. He let the handle go and stepped away to let them enter. Neagley went first. The house was too small for any one part of it to be really in back of any other part. It was like one generous room divided into four quadrants. Two small bedrooms on the right with a bathroom between, Reacher guessed. A small living room in the left front corner and a small kitchenette behind it. That was all. Tiny, but beautiful. Everything was off-white and pale yellow. There were flowers in vases. The windows were shaded with white wooden shutters. Floors were dark polished wood. Reacher turned and closed the door behind him and the street noise disappeared and silence clamped down over the house. A good feeling, once upon a time, he thought. Now maybe not so good.

A woman stepped out of the kitchen area, from behind a half-wide dividing wall so abbreviated that it couldn't have offered accidental concealment. Reacher felt she must have gone and hidden behind it, deliberately, when the doorbell rang. She looked a lot younger than him. A little younger than Neagley.

Younger than Franz had been.

She was a tall woman, white blonde, blue-eyed like a Scandinavian, and thin. She was wearing a light V-neck sweater and the bones showed in the front of her chest. She was clean and made up and perfumed and her hair was brushed. Perfectly composed, but not relaxed. Reacher could see wild bewilderment around her eyes, like a fright mask worn under the skin.

There was awkward silence for a moment and then Neagley stepped forward and said, "Angela? I'm Frances Neagley. We spoke on the phone."

Angela Franz smiled in an automatic way and offered her hand. Neagley took it and shook it briefly and then Reacher stepped forward and took his turn. He said, "I'm Jack Reacher. I'm very sorry for your loss." He took her hand, which felt cold and fragile in his.

"You've used those words more than a few times," she said. "Haven't you?"

"I'm afraid so," Reacher said.

"You're on Calvin's list," she said. "You were an MP just like him."

Reacher shook his head. "Not just like him. Not nearly as good."

Hot Series
» Unfinished Hero series
» Colorado Mountain series
» Chaos series
» The Sinclairs series
» The Young Elites series
» Billionaires and Bridesmaids series
» Just One Day series
» Sinners on Tour series
» Manwhore series
» This Man series
» One Night series
» Fixed series
Most Popular
» A Thousand Letters
» Wasted Words
» My Not So Perfect Life
» Caraval (Caraval #1)
» The Sun Is Also a Star
» Everything, Everything
» Devil in Spring (The Ravenels #3)
» Marrying Winterborne (The Ravenels #2)
» Cold-Hearted Rake (The Ravenels #1)
» Norse Mythology