Home > Deep Down (Jack Reacher #16.5)(10)

Deep Down (Jack Reacher #16.5)(10)
Author: Lee Child

“Soviet wet boys are coming for you?”

“One minute now, probably. I’m about to be a mugging gone wrong. I’m going to be found dead on a street corner.”

“Where are you?”

“In the badlands behind Union Station.”

“I can’t get anyone there in less than a minute.”

“I didn’t expect you would.”

“Are you going to be OK?”

“That depends on how many they send.”

“Can you arrest Vaz before they get there?”

“She’s long gone. I’m sure she went straight out the bathroom window. You’ll have to pick her up. She’ll be heading for her office.”

Then a man stepped in through the bar’s rear door.

“Got to go,” Reacher said. “It’s starting.”

*

Reacher hung up the phone. The guy at the rear door was compact and hard-edged, dressed in black, moving easily. He looked vaguely similar to Vaz in terms of ethnic background. But he was a decade older. Nothing in his hands. Not yet. Not inside a public bar. Reacher guessed the point of the guy coming in the back was to chase him out the front, where the main force would be gathered. Easier to set up a mugging gone wrong on a public street, rather than in a private yard in back of a bar. Because it wasn’t a great street. Not a great neighborhood. Broken lighting, plenty of shadows, plenty of doorways, passersby habituated by instinct and long experience to look away and say nothing.

The guy was scanning the room. Vaz had spent very little time on the phone. Very few words. Probably not more than big guy, very tall, gray suit. Reacher felt the guy’s eyes on him. He practically heard the check marks. Big guy, right there. Very tall, no question. Gray suit, here’s our boy. The guy started away from the door.

Reacher started toward it.

A wise man asked, what’s the best time to plant a tree? A wise man answered, fifty years ago. As in, what’s the best time to make a decision? A wise man answers, five seconds before the first punch is thrown.

The guy in black weighed maybe one-ninety, and he was doing about two miles an hour. Reacher weighed two-fifty, and he was doing about three miles an hour. Therefore closing speed was five miles an hour, and impact, should it happen, would involve some multiple of four hundred forty pounds a square inch.

Impact did happen.

But not at five miles an hour. Closing speed was dramatically increased by a sudden drive off Reacher’s back foot and the vicious clubbing swing of his elbow. Which therefore connected with a real big multiple of their combined bodyweights. Reacher caught the guy on the perfect cheekbone-nose-cheekbone line and the cracking and splintering was clearly audible over the wooden thud of feet on the floor. The guy went down like a motorcycle rider hitting a clothesline. Reacher walked on by and stepped out the back door.

Nobody or somebody?

That was the only question. And there is no bigger difference than nothing or something. Had they posted all of the main force at the front? Or had they left a lone guy as back-up?

They had left a guy. Dark hair, dark eyes, thicker coat than his pal. Smart as a whip, probably, but any human given instructions is at a disadvantage. Your target is a big guy, very tall, gray suit. And however smart you are, however quick, that lethal one, two, three question-and-answer drumbeat occupies precious mental milliseconds, at least big guy check, very tall check, gray suit check, like that, and the problem comes when the big guy in the gray suit occupies those same precious milliseconds by walking straight toward you and breaking your skull with his elbow.

Reacher walked on, to where an arch led from the yard to the alley.

*

The alley was wide enough for two horses and a beer cart axle. At the right-hand end was an arch to another private yard. At the left-hand end was the street. Reacher’s shoes were quiet. Class A uniform shoes. Therefore man-made soles. No one wanted leather welts. More to polish. Reacher stopped short of the street and put his back against the left-hand wall. In a movie there would be a busted shard of mirror at his feet. He could edge it out and check the view. But he wasn’t in a movie. So he inched around, and peered out, one eye.

Thirty feet away. Four guys. Therefore a total of six dispatched. Six wet boys in a foreign embassy. Permanently. For her. Like no one has ever been protected before. A woman like this could be President of the United States. They had two cars parked on the far side of the street. Diplomatic plates. Probably never paid their parking fines. The guys were in a rough arc near the bar’s door, their backs to Reacher, just standing there semi-animated, like guys sometimes do for a spell, outside a bar.

There was no busted shard of mirror, but there was a broken quarter brick, about the size of a baseball. In no way reflective, but the need for a mirror was past. Reacher picked it up, and stepped out to the street, and turned left.

*

Thirty feet was ten paces, and Reacher kept a steady speed through the first five of them, and then he wound up and threw the brick fragment at the nearer car and accelerated hard so that the brick shattered the rear windshield and the four heads snapped toward the sound and Reacher’s elbow hit the first of those heads all in a tight little one-two-three sequence, less than a second beginning to end.

The first guy went down, obviously, vertically beneath Reacher’s scything follow-through, and then Reacher spun back off the bounce and drove the same elbow backward into the next guy’s head. Which left two guys still on their feet, one close, one inconveniently distant, so Reacher feinted toward the farther one and then pivoted back and head-butted the nearer one, like he was trying to drive a fencepost into dry baked earth with his head. Which left one still on his feet, which the guy put to good use by running for it.

Reacher let him go. There were things Reacher didn’t like to do. Running was one of them.

Twenty-four hours later Reacher was back in Frankfurt, where he stayed for a week, before moving on to Korea for a regular tour. Neither he nor anyone in the world heard anything more about Alice Vaz. He had no idea whether his analysis had been right or wrong, close or wildly inaccurate. But a month after his arrival in Seoul he heard he was being considered for a medal. The Legion of Merit, to be specific, and for no discernible reason, other than what might be gleaned from the notes in the manual: Awarded for exceptionally meritorious conduct in the performance of outstanding services to the United States.

 

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