Home > High Heat (Jack Reacher #17.5)(10)

High Heat (Jack Reacher #17.5)(10)
Author: Lee Child

The guy on the left was a shadowy grunting figure, and he said, “Suppose we don’t?”

“Then I’ll kick your butt and steal your television.”

“Suppose you drive us?”

“Just keep walking,” Reacher said.

They didn’t. They eased the box carefully to the ground and stood up again, breathing deep, two dark figures in the dark. Even from six feet away it was hard to make out detail, but their hands hadn’t gone to their pockets yet, which was a good sign. It meant any upcoming combat was likely to be unarmed, which was reassuring. Reacher had grown up in a culture of extreme violence, it being hard to describe the U.S. Marine Corps any other way, and he had taken its lessons on board, with the result that he hadn’t lost a fight in more than ten years, against Corps kids from the same culture, and against rivalrous local youth all around the world, who liked to think the U.S. military was nothing special, and who liked to try to prove it by proxy, usually unsuccessfully. Two punks on a blacked-out New York City street were unlikely to prove an unprecedented problem, unless they had knives or guns, which was unknowable at that point.

The guy on the right said, “Maybe we’ll take the girl with us. Maybe we’ll have ourselves some fun.”

The guy on the left said, “Just give us the keys and no one gets hurt.”

Which was the moment of decision. Surprise was always good. Delay was always fatal. Guys who let a situation unfold in its own good time were just stockpiling problems for themselves. Reacher ran at the left-hand guy, two choppy steps, like an infielder charging a grounder, and he didn’t slow down. He ran right through the guy, leading with his forearm held horizontal, jerking his elbow into the guy’s face, and as soon as he felt the guy’s nose burst open he stamped down and reversed direction around the box and went after the second guy, who flinched away and took Reacher’s charging weight flat in the back. The guy pitched forward like he had been hit by a truck, and Reacher kicked him in the head, and the guy lay still.

Reacher checked their pockets. No knives, no guns, which was usually the case. But it had been their choice. They could have kept on walking. He hauled the right-hand guy next to the left-hand guy, close together, shoulder to shoulder, and he picked up the heavy box like a strongman in the circus, struggling and tottering, and he took two short steps and dropped it on their heads from waist height.

Chrissie said, “Why did you do that?”

“Rules,” Reacher said. “Winning ain’t enough. The other guy has to know he lost.”

“Is that what they teach you in the Marine Corps?”

“More or less.”

“They’ll wreck the car when they wake up.”

“They won’t. They’ll throw up and crawl home. By which time you’ll be long gone anyway.”

So Chrissie locked up, and they walked back through the heat to where Hemingway was waiting on Carmine. Reacher said, “No progress?”

Hemingway said, “Not yet.”

“Maybe we should go recruit someone. There are plenty of people on Bleecker.”

“That would be suborning a felony.”

“Means to an end.”

“Tell me what you meant about the guy with the Bulldog.”

“Can you use it?”

“Depends what it is.”

“It was dark,” Reacher said. “Obviously.”

“But?”

“He was in his mid-twenties, I would say, medium height, heavy in the chest and shoulders, quite pale, with wavy hair that wouldn’t lie down.”

“Carrying a .44 Bulldog?”

“Most Bulldogs are .44s. But I don’t have X-ray vision.”

“How far away was he?”

“Twenty feet, at one point.”

“How long were you eyeballing him?”

“Twenty seconds, maybe.”

“Twenty seconds at twenty feet,” Hemingway said. “In a blackout? That’s a tough sell. I bet there have been a thousand reports tonight. People freak out in the dark.”

“He was a trained man,” Reacher said.

“Trained how?”

“The way he moved through the available cover. He’s ex-military. He’s had infantry training.”

“So have lots of guys. You ever heard of Vietnam?”

“He’s too young. This guy was of age six or seven years ago. The draft was winding down. You had to be pretty unlucky. And I don’t think he was ever in combat. I’ve seen lots of people back from Vietnam. They’re different. This guy was all theory and training. Second nature, for sure, pretty slick, but he had never lived or died by it. I can guarantee that. And I don’t think he was a Marine. They’re different too. I think he was army. And I think he’s been in Korea. It was like a fingerprint. I think he did basic, and infantry, with the urban specialization, and I think he served in Seoul. Like a particular combination. That’s how he looked. I see it all the time. You ever been there? Seoul teaches you to move a certain way. But he’s been out at least two years, because of the hair, and he’s had time to get a bit heavy. I think he volunteered at eighteen or nineteen, and I think he served a three-year hitch. That was my impression, anyway.”

“That’s one hell of a detailed impression.”

“You could offer it as a filter. They could see if any persons of interest match up.”

“It was twenty seconds in the pitch dark.”

“What else have they got?”

“Maybe I could.”

“Suppose it worked? Suppose they get the guy? Would that be good for you?”

“Of course it would.”

“So what’s the downside?”

“Sounding desperate and pathetic.”

“Your call.”

“You should try it,” Chrissie said. “Someone needs to catch the guy.”

Hemingway said nothing.

* * *

They waited, all crammed together in the doorway opposite Croselli’s place, with absolutely nothing happening. They heard sirens, and snatches of conversation from people passing by on Bleecker. Like headline news. It was now only ninety degrees. The lights had gone out at Shea in the bottom of the sixth, with the Mets trailing the Cubs by two to one. Subway riders had spent scary hours trapped underground, but were slowly making their way back to the surface. Cars were using chains and ropes to tear the shutters off stores. Even Brooks Brothers on Madison had been looted. Crown Heights and Bushwick were on fire. Cops had been hurt and arrests had been made.

Then the last of the passersby moved on and Carmine went quiet again and the clock in Reacher’s head ticked around toward midnight. He said to Chrissie, “I’ll walk you back to your car. Your friends will be waiting.”

She said, “Are you staying here?”

“Might as well. I already missed my bus.”

“Do you think the roads are open?”

“Wide open. They want people to leave.”

“Why?”

“Fewer mouths to feed here.”

“Makes sense,” Chrissie said. They walked together to the corner, and around it, where the Chevette waited undisturbed. The two guys were still laid out in the roadway, under the box. Like a cartoon accident. They were still breathing.

Reacher said, “Want me to ride with you?”

“No,” Chrissie said. “We go back alone. That’s part of the deal.”

 

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