Home > High Heat (Jack Reacher #17.5)(2)

High Heat (Jack Reacher #17.5)(2)
Author: Lee Child

Reacher said, “Let it go, old man. Find someone else to hit.”

No answer. The guy looked like he was conducting an internal debate. It was a long one. Clearly there were points to consider on both sides of the argument. Pros, and cons, and plusses, and minuses, and costs and benefits. Finally the guy said, “Can you count to three and a half?”

Reacher said, “I suppose.”

“That’s how many hours you got to get out of town. After midnight you’re a dead man. And before that too, if I see you again.” And then the guy straightened up and walked away, back toward Sixth Avenue, fast, like his mind was made up, his heels ringing on the hot stone, like a brisk, purposeful person on a just-remembered errand. Reacher watched until he was lost to sight, and then he turned back to the woman and said, “Which way are you headed?”

She pointed in the opposite direction, toward Washington Square, and Reacher said, “Then you should be OK.”

“You have three and a half hours to get out of town.”

“I don’t think he was serious. He was hauling ass, trying to save face.”

“He was serious, believe me. You hit him in the head. I mean, Jesus.”

“Who is he?”

“Who are you?”

“Just a guy passing through.”

“From where?”

“Pohang, at the moment.”

“Where the hell is that?”

“South Korea. Camp Mujuk. The Marine Corps.”

“You’re a Marine?”

“Son of a Marine. We go where we’re posted. But school’s out, so I’m traveling.”

“On your own? How old are you?”

“Seventeen in the fall. Don’t worry about me. I’m not the one getting slapped in the street.”

The woman said nothing.

Reacher said, “Who was that guy?”

“How did you get here?”

“Bus to Seoul, plane to Tokyo, plane to Hawaii, plane to LA, plane to JFK, bus to the Port Authority. Then I walked.” The Yankees were out of town, in Boston, which had been a major disappointment. Reacher had a feeling it was going to be a special year. Reggie Jackson was making a difference. The long drought might be nearly over. But no luck. The Stadium was dark. The alternative was Shea, the Cubs at the Mets. In principle Reacher had no objection to Mets baseball, such as it was, but in the end the pull of downtown music had proven stronger. He had figured he would swing through Washington Square and check out the girls from NYU’s summer school. One of them might be willing to go with him. Or not. It was worth the detour. He was an optimist, and his plans were flexible.

The woman said, “How long are you traveling?”

“In theory I’m free until September.”

“Where are you staying?”

“I just got here. I haven’t figured that out yet.”

“Your parents are OK with this?”

“My mother is worried. She read about the Son of Sam in the newspaper.”

“She should be worried. He’s killing people.”

“Couples sitting in cars, mostly. That’s what the papers say. Statistically unlikely to be me. I don’t have a car, and so far I’m on my own.”

“This city has other problems too.”

“I know. I’m supposed to visit with my brother.”

“Here in the city?”

“Couple hours out.”

“You should go there right now.”

Reacher nodded. “I’m supposed to take the late bus.”

“Before midnight?”

“Who was that guy?”

The woman didn’t answer. The heat wasn’t letting up. The air was thick and heavy. There was thunder coming. Reacher could feel it, in the north and the west. Maybe they were going to get a real Hudson Valley thunderstorm, rolling and clattering over the slow water, between the high cliffs, like he had read about in books. The light was fading all the way to purple, as if the weather was getting ready for something big.

The woman said, “Go see your brother. Thanks for helping out.”

The red handprint on her face was fading.

Reacher said, “Are you going to be OK?”

“I’ll be fine.”

“What’s your name?”


“Jill what?”


“Any relation?”

“To who?”

“Ernest Hemingway. The writer.”

“I don’t think so.”

“You free tonight?”


“My name is Reacher. I’m pleased to meet you.” He stuck out his hand, and they shook. Her hand felt hot and slick, like she had a fever. Not that his didn’t. A hundred degrees, maybe more, no breeze, no evaporation. Summer in the city. Faraway to the north the sky flickered. Heat lightning. No rain.

He said, “How long have you been with the FBI?”

“Who says I am?”

“That guy was a mobster, right? Organized crime? All that shit about his people, and getting out of town or else. All those threats. And you were meeting with him. He was checking for a wire, when he put his hand on you. And I guess he found one.”

“You’re a smart kid.”

“Where’s your backup? There should be a van, with people listening in.”

“It’s a budget thing.”

“I don’t believe you. The city, maybe, but the feds are never broke.”

“Go see your brother. This isn’t your business.”

“Why wear a wire with no one listening?”

The woman put her hands behind her back, low down, and she fiddled and jiggled, as if she was working something loose from the waistband of her underwear. A black plastic box fell out below the hem of her dress. A small cassette recorder, swinging knee-high, suspended on a wire. She put one hand down the front of her dress, and she pulled on the wire behind her knees with her other hand, and she squirmed and she wriggled, and the recorder lowered itself to the sidewalk, followed by a thin black cable with a little bud microphone on the end.

She said, “The tape was listening.”

The little black box was dewed with perspiration, from the small of her back.

Reacher said, “Did I screw it up?”

“I don’t know how it would have gone.”

“He assaulted a federal agent. That’s a crime right there. I’m a witness.”

The woman said nothing. She picked up the cassette recorder and wound the cord around it. She slid her purse off her shoulder and put the recorder in it. The temperature felt hotter than ever, and steamy, like a hot wet towel over Reacher’s mouth and nose. There was more lightning in the north, winking slow, dulled by the thick air. No rain. No break.

Reacher said, “Are you going to let him get away with that?”

The woman said, “This really isn’t your business.”

“I’m happy to say what I saw.”

“It wouldn’t come to trial for a year. You’d have to come all the way back. You want to take four planes and two buses for a slap?”

“A year from now I’ll be somewhere else. Maybe nearer.”

“Or further away.”

“The sound might be on the tape.”

“I need more than a slap. Defense lawyers would laugh at me.”

Reacher shrugged. Too hot to argue. He said, “OK, have a pleasant evening, ma’am.”

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