Home > High Heat (Jack Reacher #17.5)(12)

High Heat (Jack Reacher #17.5)(12)
Author: Lee Child

“I’ll figure something out.”

“How would the military do it?”

“Marines or army?”

“Army.”

“They’d call in artillery support. Or air-to-ground.”

“Marines?”

“They’d start a fire, probably. That usually brings them out real fast.”

“You can’t do that.”

“I’m not a Marine,” Reacher said again. He looked across the street. The second-story windows were dark, obviously. Which meant Croselli could be right there, watching. But without seeing much. A man in a dark room watching a lit street had an advantage. A man in a dark room watching a dark street might as well have saved himself the eyestrain.

Reacher crossed the dark street, to the double doors. He put his fingertips on them. They felt like sandpaper. Fifty-year-old paint, plus fifty years of smoke and grime and dust. He tapped, first with his fingernails, then gently with his knuckles. The wood felt old and thick and solid, like it had been shipped a hundred years before, from some ancient forest out west. He slid his palms across the surface, until he found the judas gate. Same paint, same grime, same wood. He felt for the hinges, and didn’t find any. He felt for the lock, and rubbed it with his thumb. It seemed to be a small round Yale, worn brass, probably as old as the paint.

He headed back to Hemingway. He said, “The doors are probably two or three inches thick, and the judas gate is all of a piece. All quality lumber, probably hard as a rock by now.”

“Then maybe the army way is the only way.”

“Maybe not. The judas gate opens inward. The lock is an old Yale, put in maybe fifty years ago. I’m guessing they didn’t chase out a void in the door. Not in wood that hard. Not back then. People weren’t so uptight about security. I bet the lock is surface-mounted on the back. Like an old house. The tongue is in a little surface-mounted box. Two screws, is all.”

“There will be another door. Out of the yard, into the building. Might have a newer lock.”

“Then I’ll knock and rely on charm.”

“I can’t let you do this.”

“It’s the least I can do. I screwed you up before. You might have gotten something. You were going to take that slap and keep him talking.”

“He had already found the wire.”

“But he’s arrogant. He’s got an ego. He might have carried on regardless, just to taunt you.”

“That’s what I was hoping.”

“Then let me put it right.”

* * *

Reacher turned around and lifted his shirt and bared his back to Hemingway. He felt hot fingers scrabbling at his waistband, gapping it out, fitting the plastic box behind the elastic on his shorts. Then he felt the scrape of a wire, and her hand burrowed up his back, under his shirt, to his shoulder blade, and then on over the top, a curious vertical embrace, her breath on his neck, and then she turned him around again to face her, and her other hand went up the front of his shirt, to find the microphone, to pass it from hand to hand, and to pull it down into place. She stopped with it trapped against his chest, and she kept her hand there, flat, nothing between her palm and his skin except the small pebble of technology.

She said, “I put it in my bra. But you don’t have one.”

“Imagine that,” Reacher said.

“There’s nothing to keep it in place.”

Reacher felt an immediate film of sweat between his chest and her hand. He said, “Got a Band-Aid in your purse?”

“You’re a smart kid,” she said, and she went into a one-hand-two-elbows contortion to root through her bag, and as she craned her neck to look downward into it her forehead touched his lips, just briefly, like a kiss. Her hair was limp, but it smelled like strawberries.

She jerked her bag back up on her shoulder and held up something that crackled slightly. A Band-Aid, he assumed, still in its hygienic wrapper. He took it from her and peeled it open in the space between their faces. Then in turn she took it back from him one-handed and used it to tape the microphone in the trench between his chest muscles. She smoothed the adhesive, once, twice, and then she took her hands out from under his shirt and pulled it down into place.

She put her palm on his chest, like Croselli had put his on hers, pressing hard on the damp cotton, and she said, “He’ll find it.”

“Don’t worry,” Reacher said. “If he puts his hands on me, I’ll beat him to death.”

Hemingway said nothing.

Reacher said, “That’s a Marine Corps thing.”

* * *

The darkness didn’t help. It didn’t help at all. Reacher lined up on the opposite curb, like a sprinter at the start of a race, but he couldn’t exactly see where he was heading. Adjustments were going to be necessary as he ran. He took off, slow and clumsy, partly because of the dark, partly because he was a terrible runner, with long lumbering strides, and three paces out he saw the doors, and two paces out he saw the judas gate, and with one pace to go he saw its lock, and he launched his leading foot in a scything kick, slightly across his body, and he smashed his heel as close to the small Yale circle as he could get, with all his two hundred and twenty pounds behind it, multiplied significantly by the final acceleration of his foot, and by the fact that his whole bulk was moving briskly, if not exactly fast.

But it was enough. The judas gate exploded inward, with what felt like no resistance at all, and Reacher hurtled through the resulting blank rectangle into a space so dark he could make out nothing at all. There was the feel of cobblestones under his feet, and the sour smell of garbage, and sheer dark walls rising on his left and his right and ahead.

He felt his way along the right-hand wall to the back corner of the yard, where he found a door. Ridged glass above, a panel below, a smooth steel handle, and a lock that felt newer. The glass was probably tempered and reinforced with wire. The lock was probably chased into the door and the jamb. A whole different proposition.

He waited, to see if Croselli would come down and open it himself. Which he might. He must have heard the crash of the judas gate. But he didn’t come down. Reacher waited three minutes, breathing hard, stretching his eyes wide open, willing them to see something. But they didn’t. He stepped up to the door again and traced its shape with his hands. The panel below the glass would be the weak spot. Plywood, probably, maybe three-eighths thick, painted, retained in the frame by quarter-round moldings. Reacher was wearing shoes he had bought in the London airport two deployments ago, stout British things with welts and toecaps as hard as steel. They had busted heads and kneecaps already that night. Plywood wasn’t going to be a major problem.

He stepped back and poked forward with his toe to fix his target in his mind. Then he kicked out, bang, bang, concentrating on the corners of the panel, viciously and noisily, until the wood splintered and the moldings came loose.

Then he stopped and listened.

No sound from inside the building.

Which was a bitch. Reacher would have preferred to meet Croselli face to face on the ground floor. He didn’t relish heading up a flight of stairs toward an alert opponent at the top.

He waited some more.

No sound.

He squatted down with his back against the doorframe and punched out the panel with his elbow, until it folded inward, like a miniature door itself, hinged on a few surviving nails. Then he twisted around and put his arm and his shoulder through the hole and reached up and scrabbled for the knob. Which he found easily enough. He had arms like a gorilla. Every childhood photograph of him featured six inches of bare wrist, at the end of every sleeve.

 

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