Home > High Heat (Jack Reacher #17.5)(14)

High Heat (Jack Reacher #17.5)(14)
Author: Lee Child

Then he fished out the keys and held them in his right hand, and he asked, “Where’s your book of matches?”

Croselli said, “You’re going to die, kid.”

“Obviously,” Reacher said. “No one lives forever.”

“I mean tonight, kid.”

Reacher separated a key by feel and pressed the point high on Croselli’s cheek. He said, “If so, you won’t see it happen. I’ll take your eyes out first.”

“Matches in the desk drawer,” Croselli said.

Reacher turned him again and slammed a short right to his stomach, to fold him over and keep him preoccupied, and he walked him bent over and puking to the desk, and he used his free hand to rattle open the drawers, and to root around, all by feel. There was all kinds of stuff in the drawers. Staplers, pens, rolls of Scotch tape, some in dispensers, pencils, paper clips. And a book of matches, a little limp and damp.

Using a matchbook one-handed was practically impossible, so Reacher turned Croselli toward the window wall, let go of his wrists, and shoved him hard, and used the resulting few undisturbed seconds to detach a match and strike it, all fizzing and flaring in the dark, and to light the candle with it once again, by which time Croselli was shaping up for a charge, so Reacher stepped toward him and dropped him with a right to the solar plexus, just as the room bloomed back to its former cozy glow.

A solar plexus was worth at least a minute, Reacher thought, and he used that minute to cross the room and pick up the Colt, and to dump its magazine, and to eject the shell from its chamber, and to pick up the chair, and to set it back on its casters, and to turn it just so, and to find the Scotch tape, and to pick the guy up, and to dump him in the chair, and to start taping his wrists to the frame.

Scotch tape was weaker than duct tape, but Reacher made up for it with length, around and around, right hand, left hand, until the guy looked like he had two broken wrists, in casts made of some kind of new see-through yellowish plaster. Then came his ankles. In all Reacher used six whole rolls of tape, and after that there was no way the guy was moving.

Then Hemingway came in the door.

She looked at the candle first, and then at Croselli.

Reacher said, “He admits on tape everything here is his.”

She said, “I heard a gunshot.”

“He missed. It was about twenty degrees off on the port side.”

“I was worried.”

“It’s the godfather who should worry. This is a made man.”

“What did he say on the tape?”

“Take it out of my pants and listen for yourself.”

Which she did. Reacher felt the hot quick fingers again, and the weird embrace, under his shirt, as the microphone was passed from hand to hand. Then she clicked and waited and clicked again, and a thin tinny version of Croselli’s voice filled the room, taking responsibility for everything in it, admitting to the Medellin connection, admitting to the bribe, and hinting at the size of it.

She said, “You have his keys?”

Reacher said, “Right here in my hand.”

“Open the safe doors.”

Which he did, starting next to the empty armory, working away from the window, until all of the safes stood open. All of them were full of smooth-packed plastic-wrapped bricks, some brown or green in color, most white or yellow.

She said, “Can you get his keys back in his pocket?”

He did, and said, “What next?”

“Does his phone work?”

He tried it, and said, “Yes.”

She gave him a number and said, “It’s our internal credible threat hotline.”

He called it in, the exact address, without giving his name, and then the call ended, and she said, “Their response time will be more than five minutes but less than ten.”

She put her plastic cassette recorder on the floor near Croselli’s feet. She said, “We should go. My car is not close.”

Reacher said, “Is this enough?”

She said, “More than enough. Medellin is toxic. And the evidence is right here. It’s a photograph, Reacher. This is a photogenic prosecution. It doesn’t matter who he bribed. No one is ever going to say a word against this one. It’s a tidal wave.”

“One last thing,” Reacher said, and he turned back to Croselli, and he said, “Slapping women is not permitted. You’re supposed to be a man, not a pussy.”

Croselli said nothing.

Reacher raised his hand. “How would you like it?”

Croselli said, “You wouldn’t hit a guy tied to a chair.”

Reacher said, “Watch me,” and slapped the guy in the face, hard, a real crack, wet or not, and the chair went up on its side legs, and balanced, and balanced, and tottered, and then thumped down on its side, with its casters spinning and Croselli’s head bouncing around like a pinball.

Then they hit the bricks, and Hemingway’s prediction of five-to-ten came true, in that they saw hurrying cars about six minutes out, and then a pair of heavy trucks. A lot of firepower. And why not, for a credible threat?

* * *

Hemingway’s car was four blocks away, on Sullivan. It was the mid-blue Granada Reacher had seen before, with the vinyl roof and the toothy grille. He said, “You sure this gets you off the hook?”

She said, “Count on it, kid. Being right afterward is a wonderful thing.”

“Then give me a ride out of town.”

“I should stay.”

“Give them time to grieve. Give them time to figure out how it’s really their own idea. I’ve seen this shit before. All organizations are the same. You need to lay low for a day. You need to be out of the spotlight.”

“West Point?”

“Take the Thruway and the Tappan Zee.”

“How long will I be gone?”

“They’re going to roll out the red carpet, Jill. Just give them time to find it first.”

* * *

They drove a long, long time in the dark, and then they hit neighborhoods with power, with traffic lights and street lights and the occasional lit room. Billboards were bright, and the familiar nighttime background of orange diamonds on black velvet lay all around.

Hemingway said, “I have to stop and call.”

Reacher said, “Call who?”

“The office.”

“Why?”

“I have to know whether it worked.”

“I’m sure it did.”

“I have to know.”

“So stop. We could get a cup of coffee.”

“It’s a hundred degrees.”

“Got to be less than ninety now.”

“Still too hot for coffee.” She pulled over to the right-hand lane, and then she took an exit road to what Reacher imagined was a superpower version of the standard type of highway facility, with multiple restrooms, and gas big enough for trucks, and motel rooms for weary drivers, and not just something to eat, but a restaurant big enough to feed Syracuse. And payphones. There was a long line, right outside the restaurant’s extensive and brightly-lit windows. Hemingway used one, and hung up smiling, and said, “It’s working. Croselli has been arrested.”

He asked, “How’s the whale?”

She said, “The whale is gone.”

She looked dazed for a second, and then she got a big smile on her face, and they hugged, with some kind of relief and ecstasy in her tight embrace. Reacher felt bony ribs, and the flutter of her heart. It was beating fast.

 

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