Home > Worth Dying For (Jack Reacher #15)(6)

Worth Dying For (Jack Reacher #15)(6)
Author: Lee Child

Everything he needed, and nothing he didn't.

He undressed and left his clothes on the bed and took a shower. He ran the water as hot as he could stand and let it play over his neck, his shoulders, his arms, his ribs. He raised one arm, then the other, then both of them together. They moved, but they moved like a newly constructed machine in need of some further development. The good news was that his knuckles didn't hurt at all.

Seth Duncan's doctor was more than two hundred miles away in Denver, Colorado. A first-class medical man, no question, but obviously impractical for emergency services. And the nearest ER was an hour away. And no one in his right mind would go near the local quack. So Duncan had a friend drive him to his uncle Jasper Duncan's place. Because his uncle Jasper Duncan was the kind of guy who could handle odd things at odd hours. He lived five miles south of the motel crossroads, in the northernmost of the three old houses that stood all alone at the end of their long shared driveway. The house was a warren, filled with all kinds of things saved against the day they might be useful. Uncle Jasper himself was more than sixty years old, built like the bole of an oak, a man of various arcane skills, a reservoir of folk wisdom and backwoods knowledge.

Jasper sat Seth Duncan in a kitchen chair and took a look at the injury. Then he went away and rooted around and came back with a syringe and some local anaesthetic. It was a veterinary product, designed for hogs, but mammals were mammals, and it worked. When the site was properly numb, Jasper used a strong thumb and a strong forefinger to set the bone and then went away again and rooted around and came back with an old aluminium facial splint. It was the kind of thing he could be counted on to have at hand. He worked at it and reshaped it to fit and taped it over his nephew's nose. He stopped up the nostrils with wads of gauze and used warm water to sponge away the blood.

Then he got on the phone and called his neighbours.

Next to him lived his brother Jonas Duncan, and next to Jonas lived their brother Jacob Duncan, who was Seth Duncan's father. Five minutes later all four men were sitting around Jasper's kitchen table, and a council of war had started.

Jacob Duncan said, 'First things first, son. Who was the guy?'

Seth Duncan said, 'I never saw him before.'

Jonas said, 'No, first things first, where the hell was your boy Brett?'

'The guy jumped him in the parking lot. Brett was escorting him out. The guy kicked him in the balls and then kicked him in the head. Just left him lying there.'

'Is he OK?'

'He's got a concussion. Doesn't know what day it is. Useless piece of shit. I want him replaced.'

'Plenty more where he came from,' Jonas said.

Jasper asked, 'So who was this guy?'

'He was a big man in a brown coat. With a watch cap on his head. That's all I saw. That's all I remember. He just came in and hit me.'

'Why would he?'

'I don't know.'

'Didn't he say anything?'

'Just some bullshit. But Brett said he was driving the doctor's car.'

'He doesn't know what day it is but he remembers what car the guy was in?'

'I guess concussions are unpredictable.'

'And you're sure it wasn't the doctor who hit you?'

'I told you, I never saw the guy before. I know the doctor. And the damn doctor wouldn't hit me, anyway. He wouldn't dare.'

Jacob Duncan said, 'What aren't you telling us, son?'

'I have a bad headache.'

'I'm sure you do. But you know that's not what I mean.'

'I don't want to talk.'

'But you know you have to. We can't let a thing like this go by.'

Seth Duncan looked left, looked right. He said, 'OK, I had a dispute with Eleanor tonight. Before I went out. No big deal. But I had to slap her.'

'How hard?'

'I might have made her nose bleed.'

'How bad?'

'You know she's delicate.'

The kitchen went quiet for a moment. Jonas Duncan said, 'So let's try to piece it together. Your wife called the doctor.'

'She's been told not to do that.'

'But maybe she did anyway. Because she's delicate. And maybe the doctor wasn't home. Maybe he was in the motel lounge, like he usually is, halfway through a bottle of Jim Beam, like he usually is. Maybe Eleanor reached him there.'

'He's been told to stay away from her.'

'But maybe he didn't obey. Sometimes doctors have strange notions. And perhaps he was too drunk to drive. He usually is. Because of the bourbon. So perhaps he asked someone else to drive him. Because of his level of concern.'

'Who else?'

'Another guy in the lounge.'

'Nobody would dare do that.'

'Nobody who lives here, I agree. Nobody who knows not to. But a stranger might do it. And it's a motel, after all. That's what motels are for. Strangers, passing through.'

'OK, so then what?'

'Maybe the stranger didn't like what he saw at your house, and he came to find you.'

'Eleanor gave me up?'

'She must have. How else would the guy have known where to look? He can't know his way around, if he's a stranger.'

Jacob Duncan asked, 'What exactly did he say to you?'

'Some bullshit about marriage counselling.'

Jonas Duncan nodded and said, 'There you go. That's how it played out. We've got a passer-by full of moral outrage. A guest in the motel.'

Seth Duncan said, 'I want him hurt bad.'

His father said, 'He will be, son. He'll be hurt bad and sent on his way. Who have we got?'

Jasper said, 'Not Brett, I guess.'

Jonas said, 'Plenty more where he came from.'

Jacob Duncan said, 'Send two of them. Have them call me for orders before they deploy.'

SEVEN

REACHER DRESSED AGAIN AFTER HIS SHOWER, COAT AND ALL because the room was cold, and then he turned the lights off and sat in the tub armchair and waited. He didn't expect Seth Duncan to call the cops. Apparently the cops were a county department, sixty miles away. No local ties. No local loyalties. And calling the cops would require a story, and a story would unravel straight to a confession about beating his wife. No smug guy would head down that route.

But a smug guy who had just lost a bodyguard might have access to a replacement, or two or three. And whereas body-guarding was generally a reactive profession, those two or three substitutes might be persuaded to go proactive for one night only, especially if they were Brett's friends. And Reacher knew it wouldn't be hard to track him down. The Apollo Inn was probably the only public accommodation in two hundred square miles. And if the doctor's drinking habits were well known in the neighbourhood, it wouldn't be difficult to puzzle out the chain of causation. The phone call, the treatment, the intervention.

So Reacher dressed again and laced his boots and sat in the dark and kept his ears open for tyres on gravel.

More than four hundred and fifty miles due north of where Reacher was sitting, the United States finished and Canada began. The world's longest land border followed the 49th Parallel, over mountains and roads and rivers and streams, and through towns and fields and woods, its western portion running perfectly straight for nearly nineteen hundred miles, all the way from Washington State to Minnesota, every inch of it undefended in the military sense, most of it unfenced and unmarked, but much of it surveilled more closely than people knew. Between Washington State and Minnesota there were fifty-four official crossings, seventeen manned around the clock, thirty-six manned through daylight hours only, and one entirely unstaffed but equipped with telephones connected to remote customs offices. Elsewhere the line was randomly patrolled by a classified number of agents, and more isolated spots had cameras, and great lengths of it had motion sensors buried in the earth. The governments on both sides of the line had a pretty good idea of what was happening along its length.

 

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