Home > Worth Dying For (Jack Reacher #15)(3)

Worth Dying For (Jack Reacher #15)(3)
Author: Lee Child

Reacher asked, 'Is she married?'

'What, marriage causes nosebleeds now?'

'Sometimes,' Reacher said. 'I was a military cop. Sometimes we would get called off-post, or to the married quarters. Women who get hit a lot take a lot of aspirin, because of the pain. But aspirin thins the blood, so the next time they get hit, they don't stop bleeding.'

The drunk guy said nothing.

The barman looked away.

Reacher said, 'What? This happens a lot?'

The drunk guy said, 'It's a nosebleed.'

Reacher said, 'You're afraid of getting in the middle of a domestic dispute?'

No one spoke.

'There could be other injuries,' Reacher said. 'Maybe less visible. She's your patient.'

No one spoke.

Reacher said, 'Bleeding from the nose is the same as bleeding from anyplace else. If it doesn't stop, she's going to pass out. Like a knife wound. You wouldn't leave her sitting there with a knife wound, would you?'

No one spoke.

'Whatever,' Reacher said. 'Not my business. And you'd be no good anyway. You're not even fit to drive out there, wherever she is. But you should call someone.'

The drunk guy said, 'There isn't anyone. There's an emergency room sixty miles away. But they're not going to send an ambulance sixty miles for a nosebleed.'

Reacher took another sip of coffee. The drunk guy left his glass alone. He said, 'Sure, I would have a problem driving. But I'd be OK when I got there. I'm a good doctor.'

'Then I'd hate to see a bad one,' Reacher said.

'I know what's wrong with you, for instance. Physically, I mean. Mentally, I can't comment.'

'Don't push it, pal.'

'Or what?'

Reacher said nothing.

'It's a nosebleed,' the doctor said again.

'How would you treat it?' Reacher asked.

'A little local anaesthetic. Pack the nasal cavities with gauze. The pressure would stop the bleeding, aspirin or no aspirin.'

Reacher nodded. He'd seen it done that way before, in the army. He said, 'So let's go, doctor. I'll drive.'

THREE

THE DOCTOR WAS UNSTEADY ON HIS FEET. HE DID THE USUAL drunk-guy thing of walking across a flat floor and making it look like he was walking up a hill. But he got out to the lot OK and then the cold air hit him and he got some temporary focus. Enough to find his car keys, anyway. He patted one pocket after another and eventually came out with a big bunch on a worn leather fob that had Duncan Transportation printed on it in flaking gold.

'Same Duncan?' Reacher asked.

The guy said, 'There's only one Duncan family in this county.'

'You treat all of them?'

'Only the daughter-in-law. The son goes to Denver. The father and the uncles treat themselves with roots and berries, for all I know.'

The car was a Subaru wagon. It was the only vehicle in the lot. It was reasonably new and reasonably clean. Reacher found the remote on the fob and clicked it open. The doctor made a big show of heading for the driver's door and then ruefully changing direction. Reacher got in and racked the seat back and started the engine and found the lights.

'Head south,' the doctor said.

Reacher coughed.

'Try not to breathe on me,' he said. 'Or the patient.'

He put his hands on the wheel the same way a person might manoeuvre two baseball gloves on the end of two long sticks. When they got there he clamped his fingers and held on tight, to relieve the pressure on his shoulders. He eased out of the lot and turned south. It was full dark. Nothing to see, but he knew the land was flat and infinite all around.

'What grows here?' he asked, just to keep the doctor awake.

'Corn, of course,' the guy said. 'Corn and more corn. Lots and lots of corn. More corn than a sane man ever wants to see.'

'You local?'

'From Idaho originally.'

'Potatoes.'

'Better than corn.'

'So what brought you to Nebraska?'

'My wife,' the guy said. 'Born and raised right here.'

They were quiet for a moment, and then Reacher asked, 'What's wrong with me?'

The doctor said, 'What?'

'You claimed you knew what's wrong with me. Physically, at least. So let's hear it.'

'What is this, an audition?'

'Don't pretend you don't need one.'

'Go to hell. I'm functioning.'

'Prove it.'

'I know what you did,' the guy said. 'I don't know how.'

'What did I do?'

'You strained everything from your flexor digiti minimi brevis to your quadratus lumborum, both sides of your body, just about symmetrically.'

'Try English, not Latin.'

'You damaged every muscle, tendon and ligament associated with moving your arms, all the way from your little fingers to the anchor on your twelfth rib. You've got pain and discomfort and your fine motor control is screwed up because every system is barking.'

'Prognosis?'

'You'll heal.'

'When?'

'A few days. Maybe a week. You could try aspirin.'

Reacher drove on. He cracked his window an inch, to suck out the bourbon fumes. They passed a small cluster of three large homes, set close together a hundred yards off the two-lane road at the end of a long shared driveway. They were all hemmed in together by a post-and-rail fence. They were old places, once fine, still sturdy, now maybe a little neglected. The doctor turned his head and took a long hard look at them, and then he faced front again.

'How did you do it?' he asked.

'Do what?' Reacher said.

'How did you hurt your arms?'

'You're the doctor,' Reacher said. 'You tell me.'

'I've seen the same kind of symptoms twice before. I volunteered in Florida after one of the hurricanes. A few years ago. I'm not such a bad guy.'

'And?'

'People who get caught outside in a hundred-mile-an-hour wind either get bowled along the street, or they catch on to a cyclone fence and try to haul themselves to safety. Like dragging their own bodyweight against the resistance of a gale. Unbelievable stress. That's how the injuries happen. But yours aren't more than a couple of days old, judging by the way you look. And you said you came in from the north. No hurricanes north of here. And it's the wrong season for hurricanes, anyway. I bet there wasn't a hurricane anywhere in the world this week. Not a single one. So I don't know how you hurt yourself. But I wish you well for a speedy recovery. I really do.'

Reacher said nothing.

The doctor said, 'Left at the next crossroads.'

* * *

They got to the Duncan house five minutes later. It had exterior lighting, including a pair of spots angled up at a white mailbox, one from each side. The mailbox had Duncan written on it. The house itself looked like a restored farmhouse. It was modest in terms of size but immaculate in terms of condition. There was a front lawn of hibernating grass with an antique horse buggy parked on it. Tall spoked wheels, long empty shafts. There was a long straight driveway leading to an outbuilding big enough to have been a working barn back when work was done around the place. Now it was a garage. It had three sets of doors. One set was standing open, as if someone had left in a hurry.

Reacher stopped the car level with a path that led to the front door.

'Show time, doctor,' he said. 'If she's still here.'

'She will be,' the guy said.

'So let's go.'

They got out of the car.

FOUR

THE DOCTOR TOOK A LEATHER BAG FROM THE BACK OF THE CAR. Then he repeated his uphill drunk-guy stumble all the way along the path, this time with more reason, because the gravel surface was difficult. But he made it unassisted to the door, which was a fine piece of old wood with glassy white paint carefully applied to it. Reacher found a brass button and laid a knuckle on it. Inside he heard the sound of an electric bell, and then nothing for a minute, and then the sound of slow feet on floorboards. Then the door opened a crack and a face looked out.

 

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