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Home > Second Son (Jack Reacher #15.5)(7)

Second Son (Jack Reacher #15.5)(7)
Author: Lee Child

But the smelly kid wasn’t falling for it. He was just standing there, taking it, tense but controlled. His feet were well placed, and his shoulders were bunched. His fists were ready to come up. Reacher took one pace forward, into the miasma of halitosis and body odour. Rule one with a guy like that: don’t let him bite you. You could get an infection. Rule two: watch his eyes. If they stayed up, he was going to swing. If they dropped down, he was going to kick.

The guy’s eyes stayed up. He said, ‘There’s a girl here. You’re going to get your butt kicked in front of a girl. You won’t be able to show your face. You’ll be the neighbourhood retard pussy. Maybe I’ll charge the toll every time you come out of your house. Maybe I’ll expand the zone all over the island. Maybe I’ll charge a double toll. From you and your retard brother.’

Rule three with a guy like that: upset the choreography. Don’t wait, don’t back off, don’t be the challenger, don’t be the underdog, don’t think defensively.

In other words, rule four: hit him first.

And not with a predictable little left jab, either.

Because rule five: there are no rules on the back streets of Okinawa.

Reacher snapped a vicious straight right into the guy’s face and caught him square on the cheek.

That got his attention.

The guy rocked back and shook his head and popped a straight right of his own, which Reacher had expected and was ready for. He leaned left and let the fat fist buzz past his ear. Smarter and faster. Then the guy was all tangled up in the follow-through and could do nothing but step back and crouch and start over. Which he got well into doing.

Until he heard the sound of a motorbike. Which was like the bell at the end of a round to him. Like Pavlov’s dog. He hesitated for a fatal split second.

Reacher hesitated too. But for a shorter time. Purely because of geometry. He was facing up the street, toward the four-way junction. His eyes flicked up and he saw a bike heading north to south, keeping straight on the main road, passing by, not turning in. He processed that information and deleted it even before the bike was gone, just as soon as its speed and position had made a turn impossible. Whereupon his gaze came straight back to his opponent.

Who was at a geometric disadvantage. He was facing down the street, toward the sea. He had nothing to go on but sound. And the sound was loud and diffuse. Not specific. No spatial cues. Just an echoing roar. So like every other animal on earth with better sight than hearing the guy yielded to a basic instinct. He started to turn his head to look behind him. Irresistible. Then a split second later the auditory input went unambiguous when the roar got trapped behind buildings, and the guy came to his conclusion and stopped his move and started to turn his head back again.

But by then it was far too late. By then Reacher’s left hook was halfway through its travel. It was scything in, hard and fast, every sinew and ropy muscle in his greyhound’s frame unspooling in perfect coordination, with just one aim in sight: to land that big left fist on the guy’s neck.

Total success. The blow landed right on the boil, crushing it, crushing flesh, compressing bone, and the guy went down like he had run full speed into a clothesline. His legs came out from under him and he thumped more or less horizontally on the concrete, just sprawling, tangled and stunned like a pratfall stunt in a silent movie.

Next obvious move was for Reacher to start kicking him in the head, but he had an audience with feminine sensibilities, so he resisted the temptation. The big guy got his face off the floor and he looked nowhere in particular and said, ‘That was a sucker punch.’

Reacher nodded. ‘But you know what they say. Only suckers get sucker-punched.’

‘We’re going to finish this.’

Reacher looked down. ‘Looks kind of finished already.’

‘Dream on, you little punk.’

‘Take an eight count,’ Reacher said. ‘I’ll be back.’

CHAPTER SEVENTEEN

REACHER HUSTLED HELEN up to her house and then he jogged across the street to his own. He went in the door and ran through to the kitchen and found his father in there, alone.

‘Where’s Joe?’ Reacher asked.

‘Taking a long walk,’ his father said.

Reacher stepped out into the back yard. It was a square concrete space, empty except for an old patio table and four chairs, and the empty incinerator. The incinerator was about the size of a big round garbage can. It was made of diagonal steel mesh. It was up on little legs. It was faintly grey with old ash, but it had been emptied and cleaned after its last use. In fact the whole yard had been swept. Marine families. Always meticulous.

Reacher headed back to the hallway. He crouched over the spool of electric cable and unwound six feet of wire and snipped it off with the cutters.

His father asked, ‘What are you doing?’

‘You know what I’m doing, Dad,’ Reacher said. ‘I’m doing what you intended me to do. You didn’t order boots. You ordered exactly what arrived. Last night, after the code book went missing. You thought the news would leak and Joe and I would get picked on as a result. You couldn’t bring us knives or knuckledusters, so you thought of the next best thing.’

He started to wind the heavy wire around his fist, wrapping one turn after another, the way a boxer binds his hands. He pressed the malleable metal and plastic flat and snug.

His father asked, ‘So has the news leaked?’

‘No,’ Reacher said. ‘This is a previous engagement.’

His father ducked his head out the door and looked down the street. He said, ‘Can you take that guy?’

‘Does the Pope sleep in the woods?’

‘He has a friend with him.’

‘The more the merrier.’

‘There are other kids watching.’

‘There always are.’

Reacher started wrapping his other hand.

His father said, ‘Stay calm, son. Don’t do too much damage. I don’t want this family to go three for three this week, as far as getting into trouble is concerned.’

‘He won’t rat me out.’

‘I know that. I’m talking about a manslaughter charge.’

‘Don’t worry, Dad,’ Reacher said. ‘It won’t go that far.’

‘Make sure it doesn’t.’

‘But I’m afraid it will have to go a certain distance. A little further than normal.’

‘What are you talking about, son?’

‘I’m afraid this time I’m going to have to break some bones.’

‘Why?’

‘Mom told me to. In a way.’

‘What?’

‘At the airport,’ Reacher said. ‘She took me aside, remember? She told me she figures this place is driving you and Joe crazy. She told me I had to keep an eye on you and him both. She said it’s up to me.’

‘Your mother said that? We can look after ourselves.’

‘Yeah? How’s that working out so far?’

‘But this kid has nothing to do with anything.’

‘I think he does,’ Reacher said.

‘Since when? Did he say something?’

‘No,’ Reacher said. ‘But there are other senses apart from hearing. There’s smell, for instance.’

And then he jammed his bulbous grey fists in his pockets and stepped out into the street again.

CHAPTER EIGHTEEN

THIRTY YARDS AWAY there was a horseshoe gaggle of maybe ten kids. The audience. They were shifting from foot to foot and vibrating with anticipation. About ten yards closer than that the smelly kid was waiting, with a sidekick in attendance. The smelly kid was on the right, and the sidekick was on the left. The sidekick was about Reacher’s own height, but thick in the shoulders and chest, like a wrestler, and he had a face like a wanted poster, flat and hard and mean. Those shoulders and that face were about ninety per cent of the guy’s armoury, Reacher figured. The guy was the type that got left alone solely because of his appearance. So probably he didn’t get much practice, and maybe he even believed his own bullshit. So maybe he wasn’t really much of a brawler.

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