Home > Deep Down (Jack Reacher #16.5)(8)

Deep Down (Jack Reacher #16.5)(8)
Author: Lee Child

They shuffled past him, first Vaz, then DeWitt, and finally Walker. Reacher fell in behind them. They found the bar. Not the kind of place Reacher was used to. For one thing, there was no bar. Not as such. Just low tables, low chairs, and waiter service. It was a lounge.

Walker looked at Reacher and asked, “What should we drink?”

Reacher said, “Pitchers of beer, but I doubt if they have those here.”

A waiter came and the women ordered white wine spritzers. It was summer. Reacher ordered hot coffee, black, no sweeteners required. He preferred not to clutter a table with jugs and bowls and spoons. The women murmured among themselves, a trio, with occasional guilty glances at him, unable to get rid of him, unable to be rude to him.

He asked, “Do those meetings usually go like that? Apart from the thing with Colonel Richardson, I mean.”

Vaz said, “Your first?”

Reacher said, “And hopefully my last, ma’am.”

Walker said, “No, it was worth it. It was a good at-bat. They can’t say no to everything. So we just made it fractionally more likely they’ll say yes to something else, sometime soon.”

“You like your job?”

“Do you like yours, sergeant?”

“Yes, ma’am, most of the time.”

“I could give the same answer.”

The waiter brought the drinks, and the women returned to their three-way private conversation. Reacher’s coffee was in a wide, shallow cup, and there wasn’t much of it. He was a couple of mouthfuls away from the next awkward moment. They hadn’t gotten rid of him leaving the Capitol, and they hadn’t gotten rid of him entering the hotel. The end of the first round of drinks was their next obvious opportunity. All it would take was an order: Sergeant, you’re dismissed. No way of fighting that, not even under Plan B. Captain, you’re dismissed worked just as well, when said by majors and lieutenant colonels.

*

But it was Darwen DeWitt who left after the first round of drinks. She was still not talking much, and she clearly wasn’t enjoying herself. She was finding no catharsis. She said she had work to do, and she got up. There were no hugs. Just tight nods and brave smiles and meaningful glances, and then she was gone. Vaz and Walker looked at Reacher, and Reacher looked right back at Walker and Vaz. No one spoke. Then the waiter came back right on cue, and Vaz and Walker ordered more spritzers, and Reacher ordered more coffee.

The second spritzer loosened Walker up a little. She asked Reacher what he felt when he pulled the trigger on a live human being. Reacher quoted a guy he knew. He said recoil against his shoulder. Walker asked what was the longest kill he had ever made. Truth was about eleven feet, at that stage, because he was a cop, but he said six hundred yards, because he was supposed to be a sniper. She asked with what. Truth was a Beretta M9, but he said an M21, an ART II scope, and a 7.62 NATO round.

Alice Vaz asked, “Where was this?”

Reacher said, “Ma’am, I’m not at liberty to say.”

“Which sounds like a Special Forces scenario.”

“I guess it does.”

“Six hundred yards is fairly close range for you guys.”

“Practically point blank, ma’am.”

“Black bag for CIA, or legitimate, for us?”

“Ma’am, I’m not at liberty to say.”

And those twin denials seemed to create some credibility. Both women gradually abandoned their defensive body language. Not that it was replaced by personal interest. It was replaced by professional interest, which came across in a poignant way. Neither woman had a realistic hope in her lifetime of becoming a battlefield commander. Both were forced to take a different route. But both seemed to look across the divide with concern. In an ideal world they would be fighting. In which case they would want the best available weapons. No question about that. In which case simple ethics demanded the best available weapons for those currently doing the fighting in the less than perfect world. Simple justice. And simple preparedness, too. Their sisters might never get there, but their daughters would one day.

Walker asked Reacher his private opinion about the rifle design. Were there things that should be added? Taken away? Reacher said, “Ma’am, I think they got it about right,” partly because that was the kind of thing a sergeant would say to an officer, and partly because it was true. Walker seemed happy with the answer.

Then both Walker and Vaz got up to use the restroom. Reacher could have used a pit stop too, but he didn’t want to follow directly behind them. That would have been too weird, right after the walk from the Capitol. So he waited. He saw Vaz use a pay phone on her way. There was a line of them in wooden hutches on the lounge’s back wall. Vaz used the center phone. Walker didn’t wait for her. She went on ahead. Vaz spoke for less than ten seconds and then hung up and continued on her way to the restroom.

*

Walker never came back from the restroom. Vaz sat down alone and unconcerned and said Walker had gone back to the office. She had used the D Street door. She had a lot to do. And did Reacher want another drink?

Reacher and Vaz, alone together. Walker, on her own, on the loose.

Reacher said, “You buying?”

Vaz said, “Sure.”

Reacher said, “Then yes.”

“Then follow me,” Vaz said. “I know a better place than this.”

*

The better place was tucked in close to the tracks out the back of Union Station. It was better in the sense it had an actual bar. It was worse in every other way. In particular it was in a lousy neighborhood, full of ugly brick and ramshackle buildings, with dark streets and all kinds of alleyways and yards all over the place, with more wires overhead than trees. The bar itself felt like a waterfront establishment, mysteriously landlocked, low and wide and made a warren by subdivision into many different room-sized areas. Reacher sat with his back to a corner, where he could see both front and rear doors at once. Vaz sat next to him, not close, but not faraway, either. She looked good. Better than she had a right to. Class A uniform, female officer, was generally no kind of a flattering outfit. It was essentially tubular. Maybe Vaz’s was tailored. It had to be. The jacket was waisted. It went in and out properly. The skirt was tight. And a little short. Just a fraction, but detectable by the human eye unaided.

Vaz said, “I hope not to be in this shop much longer.”

“Where next?”

“War Plans, I hope.”

“Do they cash this shop’s checks?”

“You mean, can I take my credits with me? Absolutely. Politics and War Plans? They’re practically the same thing.”

“So when?”

“As soon as possible.”

“But you’re worried this business with Colonel Richardson will slow things down. No one likes a fuss, right? And the shop is understaffed now. Maybe they can’t let you go.”

“You’re pretty smart, for a sergeant.”

“Rank has nothing to do with being smart, ma’am.”

“Tell me about yourself.”

“You first.”

“Nothing to tell,” Vaz said. “California girl, West Point cadet, first I wanted to see the world, and then I wanted to control it. You?”

“Marine Corps boy, West Point cadet, first I wanted to see the world, and then I wanted to survive it.”

“I don’t remember many West Point cadets who became sergeants afterward.”

 

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