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Home > 61 Hours (Jack Reacher #14)(15)

61 Hours (Jack Reacher #14)(15)
Author: Lee Child

'He's in lock-up,' Reacher said. 'The county jail, right? Which is a separate facility. Nobody riots in lock-up. They're all awaiting trial. They're all busy making out like they're innocent.'

'He's a biker. He'll have friends in the main house. Or friends of friends. That's how prison gangs work. They look after their own. And there are lots of ways of communicating.'

'Not good,' Reacher said again.

'Not good at all,' Peterson said. 'When the siren sounds, we leave the old-timer civilian on the desk, and that's it. He's supposed to call us back if there's a terrorist alert, but short of that, our hands are tied.'

'You expecting a terrorist alert?'

'Not here. Mount Rushmore has symbolic value, but that's Rapid City's problem.'

Reacher asked, 'Did you expand the police department too? Like the schools?'

Peterson nodded. 'We had to. Because the town grew.'

'How much did you expand?'

'We doubled in size. By which time we were competing with the prison for staff. It was hard to keep standards up. Which is a big part of Chief Holland's problem. It's like half of us are his from the old days, and half of us aren't.'

'I can't help him,' Reacher said. 'I'm just a guy passing through.'

'You can make those calls to the army. That would help him.

If we get through the next month, we're going to need that information.'

'I've been out too long. It's a new generation now. They'll hang up on me.'

'You could try.'

'I wouldn't get past the switchboard.'

'Back when I came on the job we had a special emergency number for the FBI office in Pierre. The system changed years ago, but I still remember the number.'

'So?'

'I'm guessing there's a number you remember, too. Maybe not for a switchboard.'

Reacher said nothing.

Peterson said, 'Make the calls for us. That's all, I promise. We'll handle the rest, and then you can get on your way.'

Reacher said nothing.

'We can offer you a desk and chair.'

'Where?'

'At the police station. Tomorrow.'

'You want me to come to work with you? To the police station? You don't quite trust me yet, do you?'

'You're in my house. With my wife and children sleeping in it.'

Reacher nodded.

'Can't argue with that,' he said.

But Kim Peterson wasn't sleeping. Not right then. Ten minutes after Andrew Peterson left him alone Reacher got tired of the stale hop smell from the four empty beer bottles, so he trapped their necks between his knuckles and carried them two in each hand out to the kitchen, hoping to find a trash bin. Instead he found Kim Peterson tidying her refrigerator. The room was dark but the light inside the appliance was bright. She was bathed in a yellow glow. She was wearing an old candlewick bathrobe. Her hair was down. Reacher held up the four bottles, as a mute inquiry.

'Under the sink,' Kim Peterson said.

Reacher bent down and opened the cabinet door. Lined up the bottles neatly with six others already there.

'Got everything you need?' she asked him.

'Yes, thanks.'

'Did Andrew ask you to do something for him?'

'He wants me to make some calls.'

'About the army camp?'

Reacher nodded.

'Are you going to do it?'

Reacher said, 'I'm going to try.'

'Good. That place drives him crazy.'

'I'll do my best.'

'Promise?'

'Ma'am?'

'Promise me, if he asks, would you help him any way you can? He works too hard. He's responsible for everything now. Chief Holland is overwhelmed. He barely knows half his department. Andrew has to do everything.'

There was a tiny bathroom off the den and Reacher used it to take a long hot shower. Then he folded his clothes over the back of the chair that Peterson had used and climbed under the covers. The sofa springs creaked and twanged under his weight. He rolled one way, rolled the other, listened to the loud tick of the clock, and was asleep a minute later.

Five to one in the morning.

Fifty-one hours to go.

Chapter Ten

REACHER WOKE UP AT TEN TO SEVEN, TO A SILENT SEPULCHRAL world. Outside the den windows the air was thick with heavy flakes. They were falling gently but relentlessly on to a fresh accumulation that was already close to a foot deep. There was no wind. Each one of the billions of flakes came parachuting straight down, sometimes wavering a little, sometimes spiralling, sometimes sidestepping an inch or two, each one disturbed by nothing except its own featherweight instability. Most added their tiny individual masses to the thick white quilt they landed on. Some stuck to fantastic vertical feathered shapes on power lines and fence wires, and made the shapes taller.

The bed was warm but the room was cold. Reacher guessed that the iron stove had been banked overnight, its embers hoarded, its air supply cut off. He wondered for a moment about the correct protocol for a house guest in such circumstances. Should he get up and open the dampers and add some wood? Would that be helpful? Or would it be presumptuous? Would it upset a delicate and long-established combustion schedule and condemn his hosts to an inconvenient midnight visit to the woodpile two weeks down the road?

In the end Reacher did nothing. Just kept the covers pulled up to his chin and closed his eyes again.

Five to seven in the morning.

Forty-five hours to go.

Seventeen hundred miles to the south the day was already an hour older. Plato was eating breakfast in the smaller of his two outdoor dining rooms. The larger was reserved for formal dinners, and therefore little used, because formal dinners meant business dinners, and most of his current business associates were Russians, and Russians didn't much care for the evening heat a hundred miles from Mexico City. They preferred air conditioning. Plato supposed it was a question of what they were accustomed to. He had heard that parts of Russia were so cold you could spit, and the saliva would freeze and bounce off the ground like a marble. Personally he didn't believe it. He was prepared to accept that parts of Russia recorded very low temperatures, and certainly some of the extreme numbers he had seen in almanacs and weather reports might indeed freeze a small volume of organic liquid in the space and time between mouth and ground. But to survive in such an environment he was sure a human would have to wear a ski mask, possibly made from silk or a more modern synthetic material, and spitting was categorically impossible while wearing a ski mask. And he understood that in general extremely low temperatures went hand in hand with extremely low humidity, which would discourage spitting anyway, maybe even to the point of impracticability. Thus the anecdote was illustrative without being functionally true.

Plato was proud of his analytical abilities.

He was thinking about Russians because he had received an intriguing proposal from one of them, an hour ago by telephone. It was the usual kind of thing. A cousin of a friend of a brother-in-law wanted a bulk quantity of a certain substance, and could Plato help the man? Naturally Plato's first priority was to help Plato, so he had viewed the proposal through that lens, and he had arrived at an interesting conclusion, which might, with a little honing and salesmanship, be turned into an advantageous deal. Dramatically advantageous, in fact, and completely one-sided in his own favour, of course, but then, he was Plato, and the unnamed Russian cousin wasn't.

There were three main factors.

First, the deal would require a fundamental shift in the Russian's initial baseline assumption, in that the bulk quantity would not be transported to the Russian, but the Russian would be transported to the bulk quantity.

Second, the deal would require complete faith on Plato's part in the notion that a bird in the hand was worth two in the bush.

And third, the deal would change things a little, up in South Dakota. Therefore the situation up there had to remain pristine, and viable, and immaculate, and perfectly attractive. Perfectly marketable, in other words. Which meant the witness and the lawyer had to be dealt with sooner rather than later.

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