Home > High Heat (Jack Reacher #17.5)(15)

High Heat (Jack Reacher #17.5)(15)
Author: Lee Child

Then she moved to another phone and dialed another number, and she gave her name, and she dictated a long report about a confirmed sighting of the Son of Sam, made by what she called a confidential informant, who had what she called extensive military experience.

Then she hung up again and said, “This will sound crazy, but I really want to rent a room just to take a shower.”

Reacher said, “Doesn’t sound crazy to me.”

“Does it matter what time you get there?”

“Not within a shower or two.”

“So let’s do it.”

“Both of us?”

“It’s a mutual benefit.”

“Who goes first?”

“I go first.”

“OK,” Reacher said.

She paid at the motel office, a visible wad of bills, what Reacher figured must be the whole-night rate, and she came back with a key, to room 15, which was located way in back, the last cabin before the woods. Reacher said, “Do you want me to wait in the car?”

Hemingway said, “You can wait in the room.”

So they went in together, and found a hot stale space, with the usual features. Hemingway checked the bathroom, and came out with a bunch of towels, and said, “These are yours,” and then she went back in and closed the door.

Reacher waited on the bed until she came out again much later, all hot and pink and wrapped in towels. She said, “Your turn,” and she crossed the room, a little unsteady on her feet, as if overcome by steam, or exhaustion.

He said, “You OK?”

She said, “I’m fine.”

He paused a beat, and then he went in the bathroom, which was as steamy as a sauna, with the mirror all fogged up, showing the swipes and arcs where the maid had cleaned it. He stripped and hung his limp clothes on a hook, and he started the shower and set it warm, and he stepped into the tub and pulled the curtain. He soaped up and used the shampoo, and he scrubbed and rinsed, and he stood under the warm stream for an extra minute, and then he got out.

Getting dry was not really an option, given the temperature and the humidity. He moved the moisture around his skin with a towel, and he put his old clothes back on, damp and snagging, and he combed his hair with his fingers. Then he stepped out in a billow of moisture.

Jill Hemingway was flat on her back on the bed. At first he thought she was sleeping. Then he saw her eyes were open. He took her wrist and felt her pulse.

Nothing there.

He tried her neck.

Nothing there.

Her eyes stared up at him, blank and sightless.

Medical reasons. Her heart, he thought. No doubt a cause of concern. He had felt it racing and fluttering. He had seen her stagger. He crossed the room and stared out the window. Still the dead of night. Through the trees he could see lights from cars on the highway. He could hear their sound, faint and constant. He crossed back to the bed and checked again, wrist, neck, nothing.

He stepped out to the lot and closed the door behind him, and hiked over to the line of payphones outside the restaurant. He chose one at random and dialed the number she had given him, for the internal hotline. He reported her death, said it looked natural, and gave the location.

He didn’t give his name.

Jill Hemingway, RIP. She died young, but she had a smile on her face.

He walked on, to the gas plaza, past the car pumps, past the truck pumps, to the exit road. He kept one foot in the traffic lane, and rested the other on the curb, and he stuck out his thumb. The second car to pass by picked him up. It was a Chevrolet Chevette, baby blue, but it wasn’t Chrissie’s. It was a whole different car altogether, driven by a guy in his twenties who was heading for Albany. He let Reacher out at an early exit, and a dairyman in a pick-up truck took him onward, and then he walked a mile to the turn that led up to the Academy. He ate in a roadhouse, and he walked another mile, and he saw West Point’s lights up ahead, far in the distance. He figured no one would reveille before 0600, which was still two hours away, so he found a bus bench and lay down to sleep.

* * *

The day after the blackout power was restored in part of Queens at seven in the morning, followed by part of Manhattan shortly afterward. By lunchtime half the city was back. By eleven in the evening the whole city was back. The outage had been caused by a maintenance error. A lightning strike in Buchanan, New York—part of the long summer storm Reacher had seen in the distance—had tripped a circuit breaker, but a loose locking nut had prevented the breaker from closing again immediately, as it was designed to do. As a consequence, a cascade of trips and overloads had rolled south over the next hour, until the whole city was out. By morning, more than sixteen hundred stores had been looted, more than a thousand fires had been set, more than five hundred cops had been injured, and more than four thousand people had been arrested. All because of a loose nut.

* * *

Twenty-eight days after the blackout the Son of Sam was captured outside his home on Pine Street, Yonkers, New York, less than four miles from Sarah Lawrence College. His year-long killing spree was over. His name was David Berkowitz, and he was twenty-four years old. He was carrying his Charter Arms Bulldog in a paper sack. He confessed to his crimes immediately. And he confirmed he had volunteered for the U.S. Army at age eighteen, and had served three years, partly inside the continental U.S., but mostly in South Korea.

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