Home > High Heat (Jack Reacher #17.5)(4)

High Heat (Jack Reacher #17.5)(4)
Author: Lee Child

“Sounds nice. Does it have beaches?”

“Lots of them. What’s your name?”

“Chrissie.”

“Pleased to meet you, Chrissie. My name is Reacher.”

“First or last?”

“Only.”

“You have only one name?”

“That anyone uses.”

“So if I go to CBGB with you, do you promise to stick close by?”

Which was pretty much a do-bears-sleep-in-the-woods type of a question, in Reacher’s opinion. Is the Pope a Catholic? He said, “Sure, count on it.”

The blondes on the opposite side of the table started fidgeting with dubious body language, and immediately Reacher knew they wouldn’t come too. Which was dead-on A-OK with him. Like a big green light. A one-on-one excursion. Like a real date. Nine o’clock in the evening, Wednesday, July 13th, New York City, and his first civilian conquest was almost upon him, like a runaway train. He could feel it coming, like an earthquake. He wondered where Chrissie’s dorm was. Close by, he guessed.

He sipped his Coke.

Chrissie said, “So let’s go, Reacher.”

* * *

Reacher left money on the table for four Cokes, which he guessed was the gentlemanly thing to do. He followed Chrissie out through the door, and the night heat hit him like a hammer. Chrissie, too. She held her hair away from her shoulders with the backs of her hands and he saw a damp sheen on her neck. She said, “How far is it?”

He said, “You’ve never been?”

“It’s a bad area.”

“I think we have to go east about five blocks. Past Broadway and Lafayette to the Bowery. Then about three blocks south to the corner with Bleecker.”

“It’s so hot.”

“That’s for sure.”

“Maybe we should take my car. For the AC.”

“You have a car?”

“Sure.”

“Here in the city?”

“Right there.” And she pointed, to a small hatchback car on the curb about fifty feet away. A Chevrolet Chevette, Reacher thought, maybe a year old, maybe baby blue, although it was hard to tell under the yellow street lights.

He said, “Doesn’t it cost a lot to keep a car in the city?”

She said, “Parking is free after six o’clock.”

“But what do you do with it in the daytime?”

She paused a beat, as if unraveling the layers of his question, and she said, “No, I don’t live here.”

“I thought you did. Sorry. My mistake. I figured you were at NYU.”

She shook her head and said, “Sarah Lawrence.”

“Who’s she?”

“It’s a college. Where we go. In Yonkers. North of here. Sometimes we drive down and see what’s going on. Sometimes there are NYU boys in that coffee shop.”

“So we’re both out-of-towners.”

“Not tonight,” Chrissie said.

“What are your friends going to do?”

“About what?”

“About getting home tonight.”

“I’m going to drive them,” Chrissie said. “Like always.”

Reacher said nothing.

“But they’ll wait,” Chrissie said. “That’s part of the deal.”

* * *

The Chevette’s air conditioner was about as lousy as the coffee shop’s, but something was better than nothing. There were a few people on Broadway, like ghosts in a ghost town, moving slow, and a few on Lafayette, slower still, and homeless people on the Bowery, waiting for the shelters to open. Chrissie parked two blocks north of the venue, on Great Jones Street, between a car with its front window broken and a car with its back window broken. But it was under a working street light, which looked to be about as good as it got, short of employing a team of armed guards, or a pack of vicious dogs, or both. And the car would have been no safer left on Washington Square, anyway. So they got out into the heat and walked to the corner through air thick enough to eat. The sky was as hot and hard as an iron roof at noontime, and it was still flickering in the north, with the kind of restless energy that promised plenty and delivered nothing.

There was no line at the door of the club, which Chrissie felt was a good thing, because it meant there would be spots to be had at the front near the stage, just in case it really was the Ramones or Blondie that night. A guy inside took their money, and they moved past him into the heat and the noise and the dark, toward the bar, which was a long low space with dim light and sweating walls and red diner stools. There were about thirty people in there, twenty-eight of them kids no older than Chrissie, plus one person Reacher already knew, and another person he was pretty sure he was going to get to know, pretty well and pretty soon. The one he knew was Jill Hemingway, still thin and blonde and nervous, still in her short summer dress. The one he felt he would get to know looked a lot like Croselli. A cousin, maybe. He was the same kind of size and shape and age, and he was wearing the same kind of clothes, which were a sweated-through suit and a shirt plastered tight against a wet and hairy belly.

Jill Hemingway saw Reacher first. But only by a second. She moved off her stool and took a step and immediately the guy in the suit started snapping his fingers and gesturing for the phone. The barkeep dumped the instrument in front of him and the guy started dialing. Hemingway pushed her way through the thin crowd and came up to Reacher face to face and said, “You idiot.”

Reacher said, “Jill, this is my friend Chrissie. Chrissie, this is Jill, who I met earlier this evening. She’s an FBI agent.”

Beside him Chrissie said, “Hi, Jill.”

Hemingway looked temporarily nonplussed and said, “Hi, Chrissie.”

Reacher said, “Are you here for the music?”

Hemingway said, “I’m here because this is one of the few places Croselli doesn’t get total cooperation. Therefore this is one of the few places I knew he would have to put a guy. So I’m here to make sure nothing happens to you.”

“How did you know I would come here?”

“You live in South Korea. What else have you heard of?”

Chrissie said, “What exactly are we talking about?”

Croselli’s guy was still on the phone.

Reacher said, “Let’s sit down.”

Hemingway said, “Let’s not. Let’s get you the hell out of here.”

Chrissie said, “What the hell is going on?”

There were tiny cafe tables near the deserted stage. Reacher pushed through the crowd, left shoulder, right shoulder, and sat down, his back to a corner, most of the room in front of him. Chrissie sat down next to him, hesitant, and Hemingway paced for a second, and then she gave it up and joined them. Chrissie said, “This is really freaking me out, guys. Will someone please tell me what’s going on?”

Reacher said, “I was walking down the street and I saw a guy slap Agent Hemingway in the face.”

“And?”

“I hoped my presence would discourage him from doing it again. He took offense. Turns out he’s a mobster. Jill thinks they’re measuring me for concrete shoes.”

“And you don’t?”

“Seems oversensitive to me.”

Chrissie said, “Reacher, there are whole movies about this stuff.”

Hemingway said, “She’s right. You should listen to her. You don’t know these people. You don’t understand their culture. They won’t let an outsider disrespect them. It’s a matter of pride. It’s how they do business. They won’t rest until they fix it.”

 

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