Home > Deep Down (Jack Reacher #16.5)(2)

Deep Down (Jack Reacher #16.5)(2)
Author: Lee Child

“Thank you.”

“There’s one other thing.”

“Which is?”

“Our liaison guys are not guys. They’re women.”

“All of them?”

“All four.”

“Does that make a difference?”

“I sincerely hope so. Some of the talking is going to have to be social. That’s easier with women. You can do it one on one. Men always want to drink in groups.”

“So I’m here to take women to bars, and ask them what they want to drink, and by the way are they leaking military secrets overseas? Is that the idea?”

“You’ll have to be more subtle than that. But yes, it’s a kind of interrogation. That’s all. Which you’re supposed to be good at. You’re supposed to do this stuff for a living.”

“In which case why not arrest them all and interrogate them properly?”

“Because three of the four are innocent. Where there’s smoke there’s fire, and so on. Their careers would be hurt.”

“That never stopped you before.”

“We never had fast track people before. Not like this. Going places. We wouldn’t cripple them all. One of them would survive, and she’d get her revenge.”

Reacher said, “I’m just trying to establish the rules of engagement.”

“Anything that wouldn’t get thrown out of court for blatant illegality.”

“Blatant?”

“Flashing red with a siren. That kind of blatant.”

“That bad?”

“We can’t tolerate this kind of thing. Not with a foreign manufacturer. We have politicians to please, and they have donors to protect. American donors.”

“Who like a rigged game.”

“There’s two different kinds of rigged. Our kind, and their kind.”

“Understood,” Reacher said.

“There’s no danger,” Christopher said again. “It’s all just talking.”

“So what are the difficulties? What’s not going to be easy?”

“That’s complicated,” Christopher said.

*

The front-wheel-drive car joined the traffic stream on the highway. It became just one of thousands, all heading the same way, all fast and focused and linear and metallic, like giant rounds fired from giant chain gun barrels somewhere far behind them. Which was a mental image the driver liked very much. He was a bullet, implacable and relentless, singular in his purpose. He was heading for his target. His aim was true.

Across the barrier no one was heading in the other direction. The morning flow was all one way, high speed and crowded, toward the distant city.

*

Christopher did the thing with his hands again, clearing metaphorical clutter off his desk, and out of the conversation. Ready for a new topic. The difficulties. He said, “It’s a speed issue. We have to be quick. And at the same time we have to keep things normal for the Marine Corps. We can’t let them suspect we have a leak. So we can’t stop talking, or they’ll guess. But we can’t let much more stuff go overseas. So you can’t waste time.”

Reacher said, “What, this is going to be like speed dating?”

“You’re new in town, so why wouldn’t you?”

“I would,” Reacher said. “Believe me. It would be like a dream come true. But it takes two to tango. And I’m a realistic guy. On a good day I could get a woman to look at me. Maybe. But four women all at once is not very likely.”

Christopher nodded.

“That’s the complication,” he said. “That’s the difficulty we were worrying about. Plus, these women are scary. West Pointers, off-the-charts IQs. Fast track. Going places. You can imagine.”

“I don’t have to imagine. I was at West Point.”

“We know. We checked. You didn’t overlap with any of them.”

“Are any of them married?”

“No, fortunately. Fast track women don’t get married. Not until the time is right.”

“Any serious relationships?”

“Same answer.”

“Are they older or younger than me?”

“Older. Twenty-nine and thirty.”

“Then that’s another negative. Most women date older men. And what rank am I going to be?”

“You’re going in as a sergeant. Most snipers are.”

“Women like that don’t want enlisted men.”

Christopher nodded again. “I said at the beginning this wasn’t going to be easy. But think logically. You might not need to go through all four. You might hit lucky the very first time. Or the second. And you might just know anyway. We have to assume the guilty one will resist any kind of contact. It could be that three say yes and one says no. In which case she’s the one.”

“They’ll all resist contact. They’ll all say no.”

“Maybe one slightly more emphatically than the others.”

“I’m not sure I could tell the difference. It always feels about the same to me. My social antenna must not be very well developed.”

“We don’t see another way of doing this.”

Reacher nodded.

He asked, “Did you get me a uniform?”

“We got you a suit.”

“Why?”

“Because you’re going to be a Ranger. Or Delta. And they like to show up in civvies. It makes them feel like secret agents.”

“It won’t fit.”

“The suit? It’ll fit. Your height and weight are in your file. It was easy. It was like ordering anything. Except bigger.”

“Have you got bios on these women?”

“Detailed,” Christopher said. “Plus transcripts of everything said at the hearings so far. You should probably read those first. The way they talk will tell you more than the bios.”

*

Five miles west, across the Potomac River, a thirty-year-old woman belted a fanny pack low on her hips and moved it around until it was comfortable, in its accustomed position. Then she bent forward and flipped her hair back and slid a toweling band in place, easing it back, and back, until it was seated just right. Then she kicked the hallway baseboard for luck, left toes, right toes, and then she opened her door and stepped out and ran in place for a moment, just gently, warming up, loosening, getting ready, facing it down.

Five miles.

Thirty minutes.

Possible.

It would depend on the lights, fundamentally. If more than half of the crosswalks were green, she would make it. Fifty-one percent. That was all she needed. Less than that, she wouldn’t. Simple arithmetic. A fact of life. No disgrace.

Except it was. Failure was always a disgrace.

She took a breath, and another, and she hit her watch, and she ran down her path, and left onto the sidewalk, and she settled in for the first unbroken stretch. Long, easy strides, relaxed but pushing just a little, breathing well, moving well, her hair swinging behind her in a perfect circular rhythmic pattern, symmetrical, like a metronome.

The first crosswalk was green.

Reacher started with the transcripts. The pre-committee hearings. There were records of two separate sessions, the first two weeks ago, and the second one week ago. Hence the rush. The third session was due.

The transcripts were exactly what transcripts should be. Every vocal sound uttered in the room had been transcribed onto paper. Every um and er and you know, every false start, every repetition, every unfinished sentence, every stutter and stammer, every hopeless tangle and broken train of thought. Reading the pages was almost like hearing the voices. But not quite. There was a semi-real quality. Speech never hit paper just right, however good the transcriber.

 

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