Home > Worth Dying For (Jack Reacher #15)(9)

Worth Dying For (Jack Reacher #15)(9)
Author: Lee Child

Reacher smiled. He had been raised on military bases all around the world, battling hardcore Marine progeny, honing his skills against gangs of resentful native youths in dusty Pacific streets and damp European alleys. Whatever hardscrabble town in Texas or Arkansas or Nebraska these guys had come up in had been a feather bed by comparison. And while they had been studying the playbook and learning to run and jump and catch, he had been broken down and built back up by the kind of experts who could snap your neck so fast you never knew it had happened until you went to nod your head and it rolled away down the street without you.

The guy with the wrench said, 'We've got a message for you, pal.'

Reacher said, 'Really?'

'Actually it's more of a question.'

'Any difficult words? You need more time?' Reacher stepped forward and a little to his right. He put himself directly in front of the two guys, equidistant, seven feet away, so that if he was six on a clock face, they were eleven and one. The guy with the wrench was on his left, and the guy with the hammer was on his right.

The guy with the wrench moved first. He dumped his weight on his right foot and started a short, compact backswing with the heavy metal tool, a backswing that looked designed to bounce off tensed muscles after perhaps forty degrees or a couple of feet, and then snap forward again through a low horizontal arc, aiming to break Reacher's left arm between the shoulder and the elbow. The guy wasn't a total idiot. It was a decent first try.

But it was uncompleted.

Reacher had his weight on his left foot, and he had his right foot moving a split second after the wrench, driving the same way at the same speed, maybe even a little faster, and before the wrench stopped moving backward and started moving forward the heel of Reacher's boot met the big guy's knee and drove right through it, smashing the kneecap deep into the joint, bursting it, rupturing ligaments, tearing tendons, dislocating the joint, turning it inside out, making it fold forward the way no knee is designed to go. The guy started to drop and before he was past the first vertical inch and before the first howl was starting in his throat Reacher was stepping past him, on the outside, shouldering him aside, deleting him from memory, forgetting all about him. He was now essentially an unarmed one-legged man, and one-legged men had never featured near the top of Reacher's concerns.

The guy with the hammer had a split-second choice to make. He could spin on the forehand, but that would give him almost a full circle to move through, because Reacher was now almost behind him, and anyway his crippled buddy was in the way of the spin, just waiting helplessly for a face to face collision. Or the guy could flail on the backhand, a Hail Mary blind swing into the void behind him, hoping for surprise, hoping for a lucky contact.

He chose to flail behind him.

Which Reacher was half expecting and wholly rooting for. He watched the lunge, the arm moving, the wrist flicking back, the elbow turning inside out, and he planted his feet and jerked from the waist and drove the heel of his hand into the knob of the guy's elbow, that huge force jabbing one way, the weight of the swinging hammer pulling the other way, the elbow joint cracking, the wrist overextending, the hammer falling, the guy instantly crumpling and dancing and hopping and trying to force his body to a place where his elbow stayed bent the right way around, which pulled him through a tight counterclockwise circle and left him unsteady and unbalanced and face to face with Reacher, who paused less time than it took for the hammer to hit the floor and then head-butted him hard in the face, a savage, snapping movement, solid bone-to-bone contact, and then Reacher danced away towards the wrecked Subaru and turned and planned the next second and a half.

The guy who had held the wrench was down, rolling around, in Reacher's judgement stunned not so much by the pain, most of which would be still to come, but by the awful dawning knowledge that life as he knew it was over, the momentary fears he might have experienced as an athlete after a bad on-field collision finally come true, his future now holding nothing but canes and braces and limps and pain and frustration and unemployment. The guy who had held the hammer was still on his feet, back on his heels, blinking, his nose pouring blood, one arm limp and numb, his eyes unfocused, not a whole lot going on in his head.

Enough, a person might say, if that person lived in the civilized world, the world of movies and television and fair play and decent restraint. But Reacher didn't live there. He lived in a world where you don't start fights but you sure as hell finish them, and you don't lose them either, and he was the inheritor of generations of hard-won wisdom that said the best way to lose them was to assume they were over when they weren't yet. So he stepped back to the guy who had held the hammer and risked his hands and his arms and crashed a low right hook into the skinny triangle below the guy's pectorals and above his six-pack abdominals, a huge blow, timed and jerked and delivered to perfection, straight into the solar plexus, hitting it like a switch, and the guy went into all kinds of temporary distress and sagged forward and down. Reacher waited until he was bent low enough for the finishing kick to the face, delivered hard but with a degree of mercy, in that smashed teeth and a busted jaw were better than out-and-out brain damage.

Then he turned to the guy who had held the wrench and waited until he rolled the right way and put him to sleep with a kick to the forehead. He picked up the wrench and broke the guy's wrist with it, one, and then the other wrist, two, and turned back and did the same to the guy who had held the hammer, three, four. The two men were somebody's weapons, consciously deployed, and no soldier left an enemy's abandoned ordnance on the field in working order.

The doctor's wife was watching from the cabin door, all kinds of terror in her face.

'What?' Reacher asked her.

TEN

THE FORD PICK-UP TRUCK WAS STILL IDLING PATIENTLY. ITS headlights were still on. The two guys lay slack and heaped in the gloom beyond the bright beams, steaming slightly, four cubic yards of bone and muscle, six hundred pounds of beef, now horizontal, not vertical. They were going to be very hard to move. The doctor's wife said, 'Now what the hell are we going to do?'

Reacher said, 'About what?'

'I wish you hadn't done that.'

'Why?'

'Because nothing good can possibly come of it.'

'Why not? What the hell is going on here? Who are these people?'

'I told you. Football players.'

'Not them,' Reacher said. 'The Duncans. The people who sent them.'

'Did they see me?'

'These two? I doubt it.'

'That's good. I really can't get involved in this.'

'Why not? What's going on here?'

'This isn't your business.'

'Tell that to them.'

'You seemed so angry.'

'Me?' Reacher said. 'I wasn't angry. I was barely interested. If I had been angry, we'd be cleaning up with a fire hose. As it is we're going to need a forklift truck.'

'What are you going to do with them?'

'Tell me about the Duncans.'

'They're a family. That's all. Seth, and his father, and two uncles. They used to farm. Now they run a trucking business.'

'Which one of them hires the football players?'

'I don't know who makes the decisions. Maybe it's a majority thing. Or maybe they all have to agree.'

'Where do they live?'

'You know where Seth lives.'

'What about the other three? The old guys?'

'Just south of here. Three houses all alone. One each.'

'I saw them. Your husband was staring at them.'

'Did you see his hands?'

'Why?'

'He was probably crossing his fingers for luck. Whistling past the graveyard.'

'Why? Who the hell are they?'

 

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